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:
Definition of CINEMATIC
1: of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures <cinematic principles and techniques>
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?
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.