We’ve heard the term ‘Digital Dustbowl’ rolling around for the last few months in regards to the VFX climate in Los Angeles. It does feel a little like there’s no water (work) in sight. People are out of work left and right, large features are almost always getting work done out of town to where the tax credits are. The few shops that are here are laying off (See Disney laying off ‘Frozen’ artists) and there isn’t a lot of work on the horizon.
It really does feel bleak. Is it? Smaller and smaller shops and remote businesses are starting to populate the market. With the exception of advertising, there isn’t a lot of VFX work to be done by strongly qualified people. There is work though. There is television work from all of the majors that needs to be done. A lot of it will go to Canada because of the tax credits, but there are a number of shows that just don’t have huge VFX budgets and don’t really see the savings of a tax credit in Canada. It takes longer to ship the work up and have Jr. artists work on it and get it back than it does to have it done right locally.
So smaller shops and smaller work feel like the order of the day. Finding a way to make that profitable will remain the challenge. At least there is a challenge. What we have here in Los Angeles is a huge crew of hungry artists who are out to try and make ends meet. To pay the mortgage or day-care. No one is out to get rich working in VFX. Sometimes, if we make $60-70/hr It may seem like a lot to people coming into the industry or looking at the industry with outside eyes, but imagine you work a week at that rate once a month and you live in one of the most expensive markets in America. It’s really not much of a living.
Voices are mounting. There is talk of unionization, guilds, trade groups and all manner of tools to help the local VFX community. We will be on the forefront of feeding people the information needed to change to the ever-changing visual effects market.
Stay tuned and stay strong.