Saturday, March 02, 2013

VES Board Member thoughts

Van Ling, a visual effects artists for many years and a fellow board member at the VES has asked me to publish his open letter.  I've never had a guest blogger post here before but I thought I should make an exception
 -Scott Squires

To my colleagues in the VFX industry:

I wanted to make some observations regarding the recent VES Open Letter, with the understanding that these are solely my opinions as a long-time member of the VFX community who also happens to be a VES Board member, and that I am not speaking on behalf of the Visual Effects Society in any official or unofficial capacity.

I think we as a Society should follow up and clarify, publicly and definitively, a few points that seem to get lost in the initial reactions we see in many articles and posted comments:

1) As a global organization, any push we make for subsidies in California should and must be made IN THE CONTEXT of promoting local incentives for ALL states and nations, and we encourage ALL of our Sections and global members to do the same in their territories by encouraging the hiring of local talent.  What we'd like to try differently is to COMMUNICATE with each other about the process so that we can reach as balanced a system as we can for all.

2) The VES will remain first and foremost THE professional honorary society for the visual effects artform and industry, championing what brings us together, rather than feeding what tears us apart. 

3) The VES will NEVER turn into a union or a trade organization, as it goes against our charter and mandate, but we DO support efforts to create either or both of these entities and would work with them for the betterment of our industry.

4) The VES should be and is dedicated to taking a proactive stance on the business side of VFX moving forward, not only because everyone can clearly see that the artform and its creatives are materially affected by the way the business works (or doesn't work), but because we ARE our membership and our members want us to help them find ways to solve the issues that have a significant impact on their lives and livelihoods.

The VFX community and the VES membership itself are microcosms of the entire entertainment industry, and are comprised of artists and practitioners from every corner, and there are too many entities who try to benefit from pitting us against one another, either on a single production or on a global level; we have to find the common ground if we are going to find solutions, and the strongest commonality we have is our dedication to making stunning visuals that help tell stories and create wonder.  From that shared foundation, we can foster discussion between all levels, from artists to facilities to studios.

To those who consider leaving the Society because it does not serve your needs: doing so is certainly your right, but why not try to get more involved with the Society and help us become an organization that DOES serve your needs as well as the needs of the VFX community as a whole?  I may not agree with everything my fellow members choose to do or espouse, but I believe in the mission of the Society and I think we are better off engaged, listening and talking honestly with one another with respect rather than sniping at each other (online or otherwise) and walking away.  And I know of hundreds of VES members and the three dozen dedicated members of the VES Board, from all corners of the industry, who feel the same way.

So I'd encourage everyone in the VFX community to bring your ideas, your passion, your creativity and your dedication --the same qualities you use to create amazing images-- to bear on finding solutions that can work for all of us, around the world.  We are some of the best problem-solving minds in the entertainment industry, and it's time we apply those minds to the challenges at hand. 

Hope to see you all at the VFX Congress.

Van Ling


PS: my thanks to Scott Squires for giving me a space to say my piece.


  1. Why would we join and try to influence a group at it's core has said it can't do what we need, and has now publicly advocated a *terrible* way to address one of the primary problems with the business model of the industry?

    That's a pure waste of time and money. I'd get further trying to join a movie studio and change it from the inside.

  2. Great post. Thanks for making a good faith effort to clarify what was communicated so poorly by the VES.

    I think its a great idea for members to be more involved and if they disagree with the statements, open letters, etc put forward by board members, then we should vote to relieve them of their positions.

    In the future I'd encourage all VES members to elect candidates who support one's views and who you think will be a good spokesperson for the community. The current slate will not be getting my vote again. The clumsy ham fisted statements from VES board members in the past week have been detrimental to the reputation of the society and the to conversation regarding labor issues and subsidies writ large.

    My two cents.

  3. Speaking just as a VES member, I find this statement extremely odd
    "any push we make for subsidies in California should and must be made IN THE CONTEXT of promoting local incentives for ALL states and nations". I find this double-speak, as if by calling an open letter to increase subsidies for just one American state somehow is related to increasing subsidies everywhere in all nations?? The VES did the exact opposite - it called for subsides letter to be written for just one state in one country.

    I find the whole thing illogical for 3 reasons
    1. It was never discussed in the open letter that VES members should push for subsidies everywhere - Just in California. To say differently is to call white black. It was a very very focused Californian move.
    2. By what logic is increasing subsidies everywhere a good idea? Jeff Okun stated that it was a short term measure. Is it a short term message or the VES's long term goal? Are not Subsidies distorting the market and making things worse? If so how does calling for them in California make things better long term? And even more so calling for them everywhere.
    3. Subsides get paid to studios. The first and best idea the VES has is this? Perhaps as part of some bigger plan this action could be discussed as part of an emergency move... but this is what the VES leads with after a year or two of VES 2.0?

    But I do thank you for posting and I thank Scott as always for the discussion and contribution.

  4. First, that you Van for speaking to the community. You and Scott are legends in the business.

    I feel that yourself , Scott, and many in VES leadership want is best for this business. But many of us in the trenches feel that VES is tone-deaf to the needs of artists, and puts their own agenda first.

    This latest move has sent shockwaves of outrage around the world. Not only for its pro-California stance, but for the way in which the leadership makes sweeping policy statements without polling it's dues paying members. It seems the VES president has unlimited power to unilaterally do whatever they like.

    I feel the concept of , joining a society whose opinions I disagree with, and handing them $200 to do so is silly at best. I don't agree with the NRA either, I'm not going to join them and try to change them from the inside.

    Current members have 2 options to express their displeasure. Stop paying dues or vote out the leadership.

  5. "Vote them all out" seems like too blunt an instrument.

    Perhaps the VES can be persuaded to tell us specifically which board members were in favor of this clumsy letter and which opposed it? Or maybe some insider could shed some light on who were the major voices for or against it? Might help a lot when elections come around.

  6. This is one reason I never joined the VES. You're either an honorary society only, or you're not. SUBSIDIES HURT EVERYONE. They have caused global rifts in the professional artistic community and they are job killers. I read posts from Canadians saying that they aren't job killers, that they created the job they have now... Well, they killed a job here the US, and your job was it's reincarnation. I know because my first gig ended thanks to Canadian subsidized studio. Only thing that did positively for me was teach me early on was to save as much money as I could on every gig I got.
    Subsidies for our industry are and insult to taxpayers, a detriment to any sort of long term stability for artists, and a losing system all the way around. The talent pool is deep globally, and it's getting deeper. Everyone should have to sink or swim in it without a taxpayer funded life preserver. Every artist, every FX House, every vendor should have to compete based on the merits of their track record,talent, reel, infrastructure and *REAL WORLD* cost plus bidding/rate card. If a team in Mumbai, or Toronto can legitimately land contracts under those circumstances, then they are welcome to the jobs. Having spent many many hours fixing work that was farmed out to Canada, India, Taiwan, etc... I don't think they are there yet. I'm sure I'll get slammed for that but it's true. I've worked at plenty of houses in LA that have BC and Toronto offices and it is ROUTINE to have to fix their work. I don't know why. It just always seems to happen that way. I feel that if the pressure were equalized, and those studios didn't have the backing of the government, they'd be FORCED to step up their game and they'd HAVE to work to compete with us on a legitimate level playing field. I don't think that the talent is lacking but I believe that the work ethic sometimes is. So stop propping up these companies with taxpayer money and prove my impressions wrong. Have the stones to compete on level ground. Give us an HONEST run for our money and watch the animosity go away, and watch the products get continually better and the admiration for each other and our accomplishments go through the roof. You want a true international sense of solidarity among artists? You want a true brotherhood of peers? Then start competing and collaborating that way.


Messages are moderated so will be checked before posting. This can take a day or two.