Ross Lincoln is a Deadline contributor.
UPDATE, 4:26 PM: By Deadline’s count over 400 protesters are gathered at the corner of Hollywood and Vine as celebrities and filmmakers walk the Academy Awards red carpet just blocks away at the Dolby Theatre. The grassroots protest is organized by ex- and current employees of bankrupt Life Of Pi VFX house Rhythm & Hues to bring attention to the company’s recent Chapter 11 financial woes, which trickled down this month as over 250 employees were axed without pay.
Even those that remain at Rhythm & Hues working on upcoming tentpoles like Legendary’s Seventh Son have not received a paycheck in weeks. Today’s protest is also tied to a growing effort to unionize the VFX industry under the banner of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). But among today’s protesters the unionization issue has mixed support. One marcher who asked to remain anonymous said he fears that unionization might contribute to the industry’s economic problems. Others lamented the difficulty in unionizing, citing mixed interest in the industry and the need for studio cooperation as potential roadblocks. However, the subsidization of VFX houses abroad, particularly in Canada, was a source of seemingly unanimous criticism. Numerous signs bore witness to the sentiment, with slogans like “Foreign Subsidies = No LA VFX Jobs” and “End The Subsidies War” common.
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VFX artist Dickie Payne, whose work includes Titanic and Seaquest DSV was particularly scathing. It isn’t as though VFX employees in Los Angeles can easily relocate, he said. In addition to the problem of uprooting from a community when you have children and other ties, there are immigration restrictions.
Tiffany Wallace, attending in support of her partner David Dang, a freelance VFX artist and grassroots organizer, exhorted marchers over a bullhorn: “We need to stand united as workers, and as people who know our work is valuable”. Speaking to Deadline she cited long hours and diluted pay as a particular problem for VFX professionals trying to build a life. After spending an hour and a half marching at Hollywood and Vine, the procession marched to the boundaries of the LAPD’s zone of protection around the Oscars at Wilcox Ave to continue their demonstration.
PREVIOUSLY, 2:48 PM: More than 300 VFX professionals have gathered in protest in Hollywood, just down the street from the 85th Academy Awards where Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi is set to vie for the Best VFX Oscar this afternoon. Rhythm & Hues this month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after laying off over 250 employees. Protesters are wielding homemade signs, marching in a long circular procession, and chanting in unison: “Respect the artists, respect the workers, respect visual effects”. A plane carrying a banner reading “BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM” is scheduled to fly over the Oscars red carpet from 3:30 PM to 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 prior to Sunday’s protest. “It’s the greatest con of the entertainment industry”.