The VFX Protest – what does it mean to us?

As a writer of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror stories, I allow my imagination to come alive. I pride myself on making sure that my work is as cinematic as possible…

Hang on. Cinematic… what does that mean?

Let’s take a quick trip to the dictionary; just to make sure I’m using it in the right context:

cin·e·mat·ic

adjective \ˌsi-nə-ˈma-tik\

Definition of CINEMATIC
1
: of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures <cinematic principles and techniques>
So.  what I am trying to say when I use the word Cinematic, is that I attempt to show through words the pictures that I am seeing in my head as I write. I try to make sure that my descriptions of characters and places draw the reader into the story.
What has this got to do with the VFX Protest?
First, I need to sum up why the VFX industry is protesting.
While life is hard for a lot of people; the economy is down, no one has a lot of money, we’re all feeling the pinch etc, for those of us who try to make a living as a creative person, that’s normal.
Everyone in the world wants  books,  posters, pictures, magazines, comics, films, music, jewellery, clothes, cushions…- all the little things that brighten our day and make us feel a little better about our circumstances – and they want them as cheaply as possible, mostly because they don’t have a lot of money to spend on them.
Now I could rant about this all day and it wouldn’t solve anything.  This is supposed to be about the VFX Industry Protest after all.
Like everyone else, the VFX Industry is having financial problems. Several VFX houses have had to close down, putting people out of work. They do the work of gods (ie: creating worlds and creatures where there once were none) for as little as  the studios that hire them can get away for paying them. And while the film that they work on may go on to be a massive blockbusting hit, bringing millions of pounds in ticket sales to the studios, because they work for a fixed fee, the VFX Houses see virtually none of that profit.
What they are protesting about is the system they are forced to work in and they want to do something about it.  Fair enough say I and probably many of you will agree with me,  that their protest is a fair one.
However, the protest is being kept under wraps by all sorts of people who really ought to know better… and this was the straw that broke the VFX Camel’s Back – go on, I’ll wait for you to watch the video and come back:
While the Oscars was going on, the VFX community were picketing outside. Everyone else on the oscars got a decent amount of time to do their acceptance speech, but when the Life of Pi VFX team were picking theirs up, they got cut off barely 43 seconds after being handed the award.

That’s all very well, you say, but that doesn’t me anything to me, I don’t work as a VFX Artist and neither do you… well it should mean something.  Lets look at this in the most basic level. What would Life of Pi look like without VFX?

Photo credit: @tvaziri (pic.twitter.com/JjGOJ8zsQg)

Essentially, without the VFX that makes the film so beautiful to watch, it wouldn’t be as ground breaking. It’s not just Life of Pi though. Without VFX, films like Avatar and the Avengers would be just people in costumes and paint… nowhere near as engaging.

Okay, you say. I can see that. But why are you getting worked up about it?

As I said, I’m a Fantasy/SF/Horror writer. I rely on my imagination and my skill with words to communicate what I see to my readers. But should those words be popular with enough people, some studio might say “Let’s turn this into a movie.” and that movie will be dependent on the VFX industry to bring it to life.

So yes, this problem will affect me personally in a slight fashion… and no, I don’t have any movie rights contracts up my sleeve.

Also, my fiance is heading into the world of animation and illustration – he’d love to work for the very industry that is having problems… The thing is, this protest and a similar one by screenwriters a few years back, are symptoms of a larger problem that I touched on earlier.

Everyone is having money problems. So those people in the position to spend money want to get what they need as cheaply as possible, and that creates the problem. Instead of paying artists/writers/animators etc, what their skills are worth in real terms, they negotiate it so that the artist at the bottom end of the chain (the one producing the effect) is getting paid pennies.

I touched on this myself when I tried to explain why I set my e-book prices the way I do… essentially I give myself a living wage, which in britain is the minimum wage of £5.40 (according to the govt) and work out how long it took me to write the book, multiply that by the minimum wage… gasp, have a heart attack and cut it from a couple of thousand to a reasonable figure that I could expect a reader to pay. It takes me longer to make money that way, but believe me, a price of £4.99 for a novel is better than one of approx. £5,000.

And that’s what the VFX houses have to do. They figure in their technology and software of course, but paying the artists who do the work and the technicians that do the coding is the biggest part of their price. Of course, they have to figure in overheads like energy and rent as well… if I did that, I wouldn’t be paying myself anything at all…

Everyone complains about their wages, but when you’re on the breadline and worrying about the food coming in, having to worry about your job as well… well, we can all understand that.

So show some solidarity with the VFX Artists – all they want is to be paid what their skills are worth. And if you go by the amount of money the studios rake in on heavily animated or CGI’d films, then their skills are worth a lot.

Writer Wednesday: Greta Van Der Rol

I know I’ve reviewed a lot of other writer’s books before. I enjoy reading them, so why shouldn’t I review them as well?

Anyway, I was looking back through my archive and thought I would pick out a gem of a review to remind you of a great writer… and if you’re new to my blog  (and why wouldn’t you be) and reading this for the first time, then I hope I will be introducing you to some wonderful writers this way.

Once I run out of Past Reviews, I’ll start writing reviews of all the new books that I’ve read over the last few months! Happily, I have a kindle full of books I have yet to read, so I’m going to be well entertained for a while!

So here’s Greta Van Der Rol… Enjoy!

* * * *

The first book is To Die a Dry Death

 

June 1629. Laden with treasure and the riches of Europe, the merchantman Batavia, flagship of the Dutch East India Company, sails on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam bound for the East Indies.

But thirty miles off the coast of Terra Incognita Australis-the unknown south land-she smashes into an uncharted reef. The survivors-women and children, sailors, soldiers and merchants-are washed ashore on a pair of uninhabited, hostile islands, with little food or fresh water.

Desperately seeking help, the ship’s officers set out in an open boat to make a two-thousand-mile journey to the nearest trading post. While they are gone, from the struggle for survival on the islands, there emerges a tyrant whose brutal lust for power is even deadlier than the reef, which wrecked the Batavia.

This is a true story. The level of historical detail in this story is astounding, but instead of what could be a rather dry account of a tragic shipwreck, you are immersed in a gripping story of adventure and murder.

GVDR is a superb writer and her characterisation makes you wish that the characters you have invested so much emotion in, could evade their historically recorded fates.

I’m not a historical genre fan. I find they can be quite difficult to read, but Greta’s is seriously absorbing, the story enhanced by the facts, rather than weighed down by them.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Die-a-Dry-Death-ebook/dp/B003GSLX72/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308692126&sr=8-1

The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy came next…

Politics. Hatred. Star systems on the brink of war. A species under threat of extinction from a deadly virus.

Ex-Admiral Chaka Saahren goes undercover to discover the truth. Systems Engineer, Allysha Marten, takes one last job to rid her of debts and her cheating husband. On Tisyphor, deadly secrets about the past explode, as Allysha and the undercover agent scramble to prevent the coming holocaust and xenocide.

When the ex-Admiral’s identity is revealed, she must come to terms with her feelings for a man she thinks caused the death of innocent civilians, including her father.

In a race against time, Allysha must set aside her conflicted emotions and trust a man she barely knows. Saahren must convince the woman he loves to find the truth as he once more assumes his position as … The Iron Admiral. 

When I first read the cover blurb to this book, I rather assumed that it was going to be your usual hot and heavy romance with a light overlay of Science Fiction. In fact it’s the complete opposite!

There is sufficient SF detail to satisfy the Geek in me with an emotionally adept character led story line that has enough erotic flavour to get me hot under the collar… TOH never knew what hit him after I read The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy. This is one of those stories that begs to be made into a movie and I can fully see Nathan Fillion playing Saahren.

Anyone fancy camping on Joss Whedon’s doorstep with me to beg him to make this into a movie?

Ahem… anyway. Romance readers will love this. SF Readers will love it as well, though. The worlds and the technology are well thought out, enhancing the space opera feel. The whole package is beautifully presented and I can highly recommend this book.

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/45072

Thirdly I introduce a novella called SuperTech.

Ensign Morgan Selwood was almost too good at her job and far too casual about Fleet rules and regulations. Tasked with designing a control system for an untested attack fighter seemed like a dream come true and a real career booster. But the specs and modules tell only part of the story—what Morgan discovers can put not just her career, but lives at risk. 

Morgan Selwood is the kind of character I can love. She is sassy and sexy, with a seriously high level of intelligence.

The story centres around Morgan’s work in an edge of the galaxy Fleet Base and the technology is a realistic extrapolation of current experimental medical techniques.

This is an enjoyable titbit, a little something to whet the appetite for more of the character. Roll on a whole book!

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55414

Now for the main event…

Morgan’s Choice

He will use force if necessary to remind her of her place…

Autocratic, aloof, Admiral Ravindra wants to use the strange alien female and her gifts in his battle against an unknown force threatening to annihilate his worlds. Born to rule, a man of wealth, power and privilege, he will have what he most desires.

She will use courage and independence to carve a new future…

Morgan Selwood is a Supertech, bioengineered from birth to stand against the horrors of the Cyber Wars. Her abilities and appearance are the stuff of legend, exactly what the resistance needs to throw off the yoke of millennia of oppression. Caught in the crossfire Morgan must choose sides.

Together they will face a threat beyond imagining.

Morgan Selwood, as I mentioned in the last review, is an intelligent, sexy and sassy main character.

In this outing, she is joined by an accountant who I find rather objectionable. He’s certainly not the sort of man I would expect to see Morgan with. Enter Admiral Ravindra. On the GVDR scale of hotness, Ravindra ranks at about a nine. He’s got a way to go to beat Saahren at 10, but he is certifiably sexy.

The story begins in the middle of a mission that Morgan is involved with and the situation rapidly escalates into a situation that will test Morgans abilities to the hilt and also test the reader’s ability to put the book down as she is catapulted into the middle of an alien species and their troubles.

GVDR is perfectly in tune with her characters. Each one is well rounded and believable. The story is engrossing and you are on the edge of your seat with wondering what the next page will hold.

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/68088

* * *

I hope that you enjoyed reading this and that I have inspired you to seek Greta out and put her work on your bookshelf or kindle.

Where can you find this wonderful author? Take a look here!

http://gretavanderrol.com/

http://www.facebook.com/greta.vanderrol

http://www.pfoxchase.com

Book Review: The Ladies Temperance club’s Farewell Tour by Jeff Lee

Q: What do you get when you cross Desperate Housewives with Dog The Bounty Hunter and Thelma & Louise?

A: The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour by Jeff Lee of course…

 

Click the Cover Image to buy a copy!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened up my copy of this book. I’d heard it being compared to Thelma & Louise, but as I’ve never seen that movie, it didn’t actually mean all that much to me. What I actually found in the pages of The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour went far beyond the description of the movie that I looked up on Wikipedia…

 

The prologue sets the entire feel to the book in such a few words, by introducing the only character that you don’t mind seeing in a crisis!

 

“Jack Thibideau was a con man and a thief. A bottom feeder who didn’t have much use for any tax-exempt Judeo-Christian outfit that discouraged its members from separating others from their hard earned shekels.

He also didn’t have a lot of patience for the rules, regulations and bylaws of the rest of the world’s religious clubs and associations…”

 

The story itself revolves around the active membership of the Newbury Park Ladies’ Temperance Club. Vonda, Kay and Francine are three close friends who support each other through the thick and thin of daily life, accompanied by as many bottles of wine as they can drink together.

Vonda is married to Jack Thibideau and after one particularly nasty encounter with Jack’s taste in porn and alcohol, coupled with many good reasons for divorcing the guy, Vonda picks up a nearby trophy and does to Jack what any thinking person would like to do…

 

The hijinks start after Francine and Kay find Vonda and decide to take her on a road trip in Jack’s luxury RV. They stuff Jack’s body into the RV’s onboard chest freezer and disappear into the night.

 

This is one book you are going to find yourself snorting, cheering and laughing aloud at!

 

Be prepared to have to read pieces out or explain what you are reacting to, or alternatively, you could suggest that the inquirer read the book themselves. Either way, it is a rollercoaster ride of emotion and entertainment from beginning to end.

Jeff Lee has really captured the whole road trip movie feel and his characters are perfectly crafted, drawing you into the story and making you care about them in so few words. His descriptions at each pitstop they take and the encounters they have keep the story flowing nicely, especially after Fish and his Sidekicks get involved.

 

In fact my only criticism is that I wanted to know more about the three main characters. You find out a lot about Vonda through Jack’s back story, but you don’t really understand much about Francine and Kay’s lives until a good two thirds of the way into the book. There is enough there for the other two members of the Ladies Temperance club to have their own books, prequels if you will, leading into this one.

 

This is a book that I think will lift the spirits no matter how many times you read it, and one that I can seriously see becoming a box office blockbuster.