The VFX workers who made Visual Effects Oscar front-runner Life Of Pi possible are planning a two-fronted protest for Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards. A group of past and present employees of Rhythm & Hues, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, has commissioned a plane to fly a banner over the Oscar red carpet that will read “BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM”. Organizer Dave Rand, a Senior FX Artist at Rhythm & Hues, tells Deadline protesters plan on gathering at the Compton airport prior to the plane’s departure and also at a secondary location near the Dolby Theatre, possibly at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The banner is scheduled to fly over the pre-show red carpet between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM. “We’re tired of paying for the studios’ movies, our employers paying for the studios’ movies, and foreign tax payers paying for the studios’ movies”, Rand told Deadline. “It’s the greatest con of the entertainment industry”.
The VFX protesters pooled together cash to pay for Sunday’s banner fly-over even though many haven’t received paychecks for over a month for ongoing work on Rhythm & Hues’ tentpole projects. With the support of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) the group seeks to shine a spotlight on their situation by bringing awareness to A-list red carpetgoers and media outlets covering Sunday’s Oscars. Organizers are also waging a grassroots campaign to end government subsidies that some blame for the visual effects industry’s woes.
Last Friday the ailing El Segundo-based Rhythm & Hues received interim approval of a $17 million loan from studio clients Fox and Universal after laying off over 250 employees. Yesterday the courts approved an additional $4.9 million payment from Legendary Pictures to pay for Rhythm & Hues’ completion of VFX work for their October release Seventh Son. Earlier today it was announced that investment bank Houlihan Lokey has come on as financial advisor to aid Rhythm & Hues in finding a buyer out of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the VFX studio is the front-runner to win the Academy Award on Sunday for its work on Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, for which it already nabbed the VES Award.