Monday, June 10, 2013

Sad state of the Visual Effects Industry

Sad state of the Visual Effects Industry

For anyone considering visual effects as a career and for those already working in the industry-  please check out this great article by Jeff Heusser  at fxGuide:
VFX in Los Angeles – 100 hour weeks & homeless

Puts things in perspective.

This is what our industry has come to. We who make the magic from nothing and we who generate the major profits for the studios. The studios have commoditized us and shipped jobs around the world to save pennies. Those who are experienced, talented and skilled are putting in long hours and are being forced to move to other locations around the world, away from their family and homes.

Those just starting out are being fleeced by anyone and everyone selling them on this fictional dream of fame, fortune and creative riches.

For profit schools are multiplying at an incredible rate and being funded by money machines such as Goldman Sachs to sell dreams to people, young and old. The problem is those dreams don't exist. These schools are churning out thousands of graduates to an industry without jobs. The only selection process at these types of schools is can you pay or can you sign this student loan from the government.  Your aptitude and your potential talent is never evaluated. Guidance counselors never reveal the reality of the industry you're getting into or your odds. In most cases these diploma mill types of schools teach very little of value and even those that do now have cranked out so many others it doesn't matter. It's hard to stand out and even when you do it's hard to get a job. When you do get a job you will likely be working long hours and then have to move to find your next project.

All of these students are eager to go into tens of thousands of debt. They are eager to work for free or close to free. They are eager to be exploited, to lower their value and the value of everyone else in the future, to the detriment of their real future.

The student loan bubble is the next big bubble to burst with over $1 trillion in student loans here in the US.

Many coming to this website are searching for the salary of visual effects supervisors and other positions, eager to learn about making a fortune without pausing on some of the more sobering information.

Those just considering visual effects industry as a career, save yourself. Go into something with a future. Visual effects are being used  more than they ever have (every film from hollywood uses vfx and most independents) and the technical and creative challenges are increasing but the business aspects and control of the industry have turned the love of what we do into a mess. It certainly pains me to write this as someone who has been doing this a long time. Visual effects companies are collapsing while others fiddle.

Many in the industry, even those with experience, are bailing as quickly as they can. And with a visual effects only skill set, there's very few places you can work. There are few other industries that can take people who do animation, lighting, rendering, modeling, compositing, etc. Make sure if you do go to school you gain a broader base of knowledge than just visual effects. 

There are plenty of visual effects companies around the world that have no problems exploiting recent graduates who have already been exploited and fleeced from the schools they attended. Overtime is the norm. Companies encourage it, especially since it hides the sins of poor management, and it is now such a mantra for workers that they accept it as the norm themselves.

The visual effects companies who take on many of these new graduates do so at the expense of other, more experienced workers. And why do they do it? False economics. They think that hiring people at a lower wage is how they can save money. The truth is the experienced worker is more productive, the more likely to solve the problems, and the one who can make sure the project gets done in the compressed time schedule. New people should be brought in as needed and mentored so they have a future. In an industry where experienced people are being dumped for the cheaper, inexperienced people - what do people starting a career in this industry think will be happening to them once they become experienced? It's an endless cycle.

With so many visual effects graduates eager to be exploited and companies willing to exploit them, the visual effects industry is dissolving from the bottom while pressure and other problems are dissolving the top. The end result will be an empty hull.

Now there are thousands and thousands of film school graduates every year as well. Likely many times the number of visual effects graduates. Why isn't the rest of the film industry having these same problems? Well the studios are smart enough not to hire too many inexperienced people. They know the value of experience. And everyone else working in live action filmmaking is covered by a union. This provides the studios with the experienced people they need and also protect the crews from being exploited. Visual effects is the only group not covered by a union and thus is able to be easily exploited.

Related posts
See any article on the right column under the State of the Industry

Updated 6-11-2013
I'll repeat some of the links here from the schools post since not everyone follows the links and I've added many more since there seems to be some confusion regarding this issue.

Harkin, Colleagues Say For-Profit Colleges Squander Billions and Destroy Dreams
Art Institute graduate spent 70K on degree, can't find video game job, takes up stripping instead.

New links:
Yes another video and article about another visual effects student being lied to at Art Institute in Tampa.

110 for-profit colleges accused of lying, defrauding taxpayers - video and article

Read more:

For-profit colleges investigation - Great video
For-Profit Colleges Are A Spectacularly Bad Investment

What I Just Told the Obama Administration About For-Profit Colleges
NY Times list of articles on for-profit schools

Some of those NY Times articles:
Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream
Misleading Advice for Student Borrowers
Closer Scrutiny of For-Profit Schools

For-profit colleges wrong solution to higher education problem

See vfxsoldier for more student stories.

Update 6-14-2013
Even if you work in a subsidized area you might not be paid 

Today is also another Townhall Meeting that applies to all involved in visual effects around the world.
This is a streaming event that is being held in New York today but is being streamed globally with speakers from around the world.

Starts at 6pm New York time. 3pm Los Angeles time.

More info:
VFXTownHall Streaming location.
More info