7:23 pm - 02/25/2013

VFX Artist Writes Open Letter to Ang Lee


Dear Mr. Lee,

When asked about the bankruptcy of Rhythm + Hues, the visual effects house largely responsible for making your film “life of Pi” as incredible as it was, you said:

“I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive].”

I just want to point out that while, yes R&D can be expensive and yes it takes a lot of technology and computing power to create films like yours, it is not computer chips and hard drives that are costing you so very much money.  It is the artists that are helping you create your film.

So when you say  “I would like it to be cheaper,” as an artist I take that personally.   It took hundreds of hours from skilled artists and hard-working coordinators and producers to craft the environments and performances in life of Pi.  Not to mention the engineers that wrote all of that proprietary code and build the R+H pipeline.  That is where your money went.  I’d say, judging from the night you just had, you got one hell of a deal.

Incidentally, those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those artists. And the same animated performances that helped win you the best director statue.  Nice of you to mentionthe pool crew, but maybe you could have thanked the guys and gals who turned that pool in to an ocean and put a tiger in to that boat?

It was world class work, after all.  And after a fabulously insulting and dismissive introduction from the cast of the avengers, at least two of whom spent fully half of their film as a digitally animated character, R+H won for it’s work on your very fine piece of cinema. And just as the bankruptcy was about to be acknowledged on a nationally-televised platform, the speech was cut short.  By the Jaws theme.

If this was meant as a joke, we artists are not laughing.

Mr. Lee, I do believe that you are a thoughtful and brilliant man. And a gifted filmmaker. But I also believe that you and everyone in your tier of our business is fabulously ignorant to the pain and turmoil you are putting artists through.  Our employers scramble to chase illegal film subsidies across the globe at the behest of the film studios.  Those same subsidies raise overhead, distort the market, and cause wage stagnation in what are already trying economic times.  Your VFX are already cheaper than they should be.  It is disheartening to see how blissfully unaware of this fact you truly are.

By all accounts, R+H is a fantastic place to work; a truly great group of people who treat their employees with fairness and respect.  Much like Zoic Studios, the fabulous company that I am proud to work for. But I am beginning to wonder if these examples of decency will be able to survive in such a hostile environment.  Or if the horror stories of unpaid overtime and illegal employment practices will become the norm, all because you and your fellow filmmakers “would like it to be cheaper.”

I for one won’t stand for it.  Please join me.

Warmest regards and congratulations,
Phillip Broste
Lead Compositor


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goddlesssinner 26th-Feb-2013 01:08 am (UTC)
They shouldn't hold the "JAws" music playing against Lee. It was not his decision
whiskybars 26th-Feb-2013 01:09 am (UTC)
still pressed this movie won best cinematography over deakins
brokenseas 26th-Feb-2013 01:10 am (UTC)
I was really hoping for Deakins :(
boss_sister 26th-Feb-2013 01:22 am (UTC)
Still pressed this movie won cinematography at all. What a joke.
kytele 27th-Feb-2013 04:31 am (UTC)
for reals, right?
snowweisz 26th-Feb-2013 01:29 am (UTC)
Pressed it won anything over Anna Karenina tbh
maebytonight 26th-Feb-2013 01:34 am (UTC)
All of the scenes in Macau and Shanghai were breathtaking
colorstoobright 26th-Feb-2013 01:39 am (UTC)
ia, i wanted him to win.
ticklemepink127 26th-Feb-2013 03:25 am (UTC)
yep :/
la_petite_singe 26th-Feb-2013 03:26 am (UTC)
I warned my friends ahead of time that they should clear the snacks and wine bottles and stuff off the table before the Cinematography award, because I fully intended to flip that bitch if Deakins lost again. WHAT DOES THE MAN HAVE TO DO, JESUS CHRIST
fabouluz 26th-Feb-2013 01:10 am (UTC)
This is a mess, Hollywood is fucked up.
kaypie 26th-Feb-2013 01:11 am (UTC)
I couldn't believe they cut him off. Did they cut anyone else off?
goddlesssinner 26th-Feb-2013 01:13 am (UTC)
They cut him off because he personalised the speech. He went on and on thanking his family and the other 3 were standing there and it became too long
nene718 26th-Feb-2013 01:32 am (UTC)
some other people got the jaws theme but he was the only person who talked long enough to get his mic cut off

well, aside from the winners of the major awards

Edited at 2013-02-26 01:32 am (UTC)
brokenseas 26th-Feb-2013 01:12 am (UTC)
Did this guy not get the Weinstein Co memo that this should have been out the day before voting closed, not the day after the awards have been given out?
nightfury 26th-Feb-2013 01:12 am (UTC)
Lots of people on facebook are changing their profile pictures to all green squares in support of VFX artists, and posting this message

"Dear friends, I changed my profile photo today to green. While this isn't and shouldn't be news, the point behind it is. I changed my photo to green as a symbol of solidarity for vfx artists because more and more people are losing jobs, lifestyles, passions, and families to the overworked and under respected VFX industry. Last night at the Oscars this was on full display. They skipped our introduction and cut short our victor who, at the time was trying to talk about the blight of our industry. With every film in the top ten being vfx tent poles it's hard to imagine the cinema without. I am telling you now, it will get worse not better. Hollywood wants cheaper work and faster products, leading to 80 hour week, no weekends, and very little life outside of work. In return, they give us no respect and even less credit. People are losing careers, not just jobs. The industry is crumbling. So what I am asking from you isn't for help, it's awareness. Awareness that when you see a film full of vfx, talk about it. Learn who makes them. Get to know who the real talent is. Don't just say "Those VFX were awesome!", stay for the credits and say "Rythm and Hues is awesome!" That way when things like last night happen, the talk will be about the injustice of vfx artist not getting due praise instead of Jennifer Lawrence accepting her studio Weinstein bought Oscar. Thanks for your time and I hope you Google "vfx Oscar" today and read all the news you can."
littlehayzay 26th-Feb-2013 01:14 am (UTC)
I really hate the fact that they had to end with an insult to a woman - even if it's Jennifer Lawrence who everyone hates or whatever - it's really out of left field in terms of just how random it is at the end and weakens the rest of it, which is unfortunate and needs to be said.
moddchicc 26th-Feb-2013 01:15 am (UTC)
cukoo4cocopuffs 26th-Feb-2013 01:26 am (UTC)
I feel like it sorta negated their argument. Why did they have to go there? Is Lawrence personally responsible? I think it is tacky.
_myaugust 26th-Feb-2013 01:28 am (UTC)
It cheapened their argument and probably will piss a lot of people off.
snowweisz 26th-Feb-2013 01:30 am (UTC)
I feel like if they wanted to take a shot at Harvey for buying off awards, they should've taken it at him not at JLaw.
laurshel 26th-Feb-2013 01:40 am (UTC)
"Who everyone hates"? People fucking adore her today. This is like calling that little girl a "c*nt"--just completely unnecessary to even go there.
tracygee 26th-Feb-2013 01:16 am (UTC)
I appreciate their solidarity, but come on.

They weren't "cut short" ... they babbled on and on and on and got played off.

They wanted to make a political speech about the status of VFX artists? Go for it. It's up to them how they want to allot the two minutes they are given after winning. But they can't expect to take however many minutes to thank everyone and THEN be allotted more time just because they want to say something they think is really important. If it was that important, it should have been done first.
baboona 26th-Feb-2013 01:22 am (UTC)
Don't just say "Those VFX were awesome!", stay for the credits and say "Rythm and Hues is awesome!"

i'm sure these assholes pay the same respect for the makers of every little thing they use/enjoy...
poetic_daze 26th-Feb-2013 01:24 am (UTC)
they sound butt hurt as fuck
margerydaw_s2 28th-Feb-2013 05:33 am (UTC)
I didn't see the message, just people changing it to green squares and explaining it was in support of VFX artists.
luminaire 26th-Feb-2013 01:13 am (UTC)
And after a fabulously insulting and dismissive introduction from the cast of the avengers, at least two of whom spent fully half of their film as a digitally animated character, R+H won for it’s work on your very fine piece of cinema. And just as the bankruptcy was about to be acknowledged on a nationally-televised platform, the speech was cut short. By the Jaws theme.

Ouch. I know none of this right here is Ang Lee's fault, but I'd be pissed too in his position.
goddlesssinner 26th-Feb-2013 01:15 am (UTC)
That was fucking disrespectful, I don't know why the producers thought it was a good idea. They were basically making fun of them.

Later in the night, they used the The Godfather theme. I don't remember with who but I find that even more disrespectful
cukoo4cocopuffs 26th-Feb-2013 01:22 am (UTC)
I think it was Anne Hathaway?? But weren't they using famous movie scores for the wrap up of most of the winners? Jaws was a very famous movie utilizing the special effects of its time.

Edited at 2013-02-26 01:25 am (UTC)
luminaire 26th-Feb-2013 01:25 am (UTC)
mte. I know it happens with people getting played off the stage, but they didn't have to turn people's speeches into a joke.
zimraphel 26th-Feb-2013 01:39 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure the Jaws theme was used throughout as the playoff music. I did hear the Godfather theme but I think it was just the walkoff music after the speech was finished (not the cut-it-short music for which in this case I they used the Jaws theme every time).

I don't know why you would find the use of the Godfather theme disrespectful, though. They were using famous movie themes throughout the night for the walkoff music - Gone With the Wind, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa, among others - all movies whose musical scores have become legendary. I seriously doubt anything was meant by the use of the Godfather music, besides it fitting in with the theme of "famous movie themes", and for that, I found it very suitable.
bellwetherr 26th-Feb-2013 03:26 am (UTC)
The Avengers cast wasn't insulting tho?
skonka 26th-Feb-2013 01:14 am (UTC)
Don't even know what this is about but I am certain this man is being a cock.
nightfury 26th-Feb-2013 01:15 am (UTC)
....Not really.
skonka 26th-Feb-2013 01:19 am (UTC)
Sort it out for me if you have the time, please. Why is he trading on Mr Lee's name and exploiting an offhand comment which, it appears, meant no insult to the value of their work.
Everyone wants everything cheaper.

actxappalledx 26th-Feb-2013 01:15 am (UTC)
The way they cut that one guys mic off was SO wrong
_myaugust 26th-Feb-2013 01:24 am (UTC)
Well that's what happens when you personalize your speech and thank 10 million people and then mention the bankruptcy right when your two minutes are long over.

I understand where his coming from and he has the right to be upset but you know you're on a time limit and you will be cut off if you go on for too long.
modernelegance 26th-Feb-2013 01:30 am (UTC)
Meanwhile QT gets 5 minutes...? At least if you are going to cut people off, be fair about it.
actxappalledx 26th-Feb-2013 01:41 am (UTC)
Oh puh-fucking-lease. He was talking for like forty damn seconds. Anne, Quentin, Ang, Ben and Co, DDL, etc can go on forever, but he can't have two min? I don't give a shit if people care about the bigger awards. Those movies wouldn't be what they are without the visual fx, sound fx, and all the other technical categories. They do not deserve to be diminished and rob of their moment and to have their microphone cut off
baboona 26th-Feb-2013 01:16 am (UTC)
And just as the bankruptcy was about to be acknowledged on a nationally-televised platform, the speech was cut short. By the Jaws theme.

If this was meant as a joke, we artists are not laughing.

is he being dense on purpose? ang lee was not in charge of producing the oscars afaik
saltireflower 26th-Feb-2013 01:32 am (UTC)
Yeah, I didn't get that part. Ang Lee had nothing to do with the speech getting cut.
improved 26th-Feb-2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
I work in the VFX industry and no one holds Ang Lee accountable for that. That was completely on the producers of the Oscars queuing the music and cutting the mic. The problem is that after that happened, when Ang Lee had the opportunity to thank the VFX artists for their work/mention his thoughts out to them since 250 of them had lost their jobs, he thanked the Thailand crew and the tank crew, but none of the people that helped bring his second main character, Richard Parker, to life. Then Ang Lee had to go and say he wishes VFX were cheaper. VFX are not just buttons pressed into a computer and then rendered out. It takes dozens and dozens of skilled artists, technicians and producers to do what seems like the Impossible (speaking of the Impossible, it took 4 VFX companies a year to create the 10 minute tsunami sequence in that movie, which I'm sure most viewers didn't even think about when they saw it).

So anyways, I digressed, but no, the guy isn't being dense. The VFX industry is in a seriously frail state and I hope that this situation highlights the problems in the last film industry with no union protection.
kissoffools 27th-Feb-2013 12:25 am (UTC)
Bless this comment. I don't work in VFX but I work on a tv show that deals heavily with VFX, and it's really opened my eyes to how much work, time and skill goes into stuff like this.
homicidalslayer 1st-Mar-2013 04:16 am (UTC)
the last film industry with no union protection.

__nocturna 26th-Feb-2013 01:17 am (UTC)
robotpotatoes 26th-Feb-2013 01:18 am (UTC)
wah wah wah. omg Ang Lee is right tho... who doesn't want it to be cheaper? i mean... who says "I'm glad things were this expensive"

gorl please. there are plenty of artist out there. its not like he said you're untalented and don't deserve the money you received for making this movie.
loaded___gun 26th-Feb-2013 01:21 am (UTC)
odetobilliejoe 26th-Feb-2013 01:27 am (UTC)
Thank you.
green__desire 26th-Feb-2013 01:38 am (UTC)
The point is that they DON'T get paid. They already where working for dirt cheap with NO over time and working 16 hour days for 7 days a week for MONTHS. You wouldn't WAA WAA if that was your lifes work being treated like you are some half rate burger flipper. Not the very people who actually MADE the movie happen.
nightfury 26th-Feb-2013 01:42 am (UTC)
Thank you.
maebytonight 26th-Feb-2013 01:51 am (UTC)
True. And it's especially messed up for Ang Lee to say that after winning for a movie which relied heavily on visual effects.
ion_square 26th-Feb-2013 02:29 am (UTC)
robotpotatoes 26th-Feb-2013 02:42 am (UTC)
i mean... you make it seem like they're not adults who can't make their own decisions - was life of pi the only movie they couldve worked on? if they truly thought they were so crucial in making this movie they couldve walked away and demanded more.

hybridrainbow 26th-Feb-2013 02:52 am (UTC)
You have great comments!
starchain 26th-Feb-2013 01:39 am (UTC)
You don't say "I'm glad things were expensive" but you say "The price is high but the result is worth it."
lostinshalott 26th-Feb-2013 02:07 am (UTC)
browniecakemix 26th-Feb-2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
What money? It's not that these people think they're not being appropriately compensated for the quality of their work--it's that they're not even making enough to cover the costs.
improved 26th-Feb-2013 10:45 pm (UTC)
Seriously, you have no idea what you're talking about. The artists involved are barely making money/have no stable health insurance coverage/work insane hours to deliver for insane timelines on blockbusters from the big studios.

Asking VFX to be cheaper is the PROBLEM with this industry. Make it cheaper in the US, and it will be outsourced to China and India to the equally abusive work conditions. Creating VFX takes many, many talented people to come together and create something special. To undermine that is a serious offense to all of those involved in making multimillion dollar blockbusters.

So sit the fuck down.
tiddlywinks103 26th-Feb-2013 01:22 am (UTC)
Why scapegoat Ang Lee, though, and why now? He's not in charge of the budget.

Honestly, sole minority wins coveted award, make him responsible for the capitalistically callus state of the VFX industry.

Also, he more so said that thing about wanting it cheaper, so VFX companies can afford to keep functioning, and it's not so easy to go bankrupt.

Edited at 2013-02-26 01:26 am (UTC)
fancypiink 26th-Feb-2013 02:20 am (UTC)
9t9 26th-Feb-2013 02:30 am (UTC)
Exactly, they are just trying to draw attention to the issue and using him to do that.

People losing their jobs sucks so bad though, they are trying to do anything they can I'm guessing.
cookinguptales 26th-Feb-2013 04:09 am (UTC)
That was exactly how I read the quote, too. It wasn't about how he wanted it to be cheaper for him, but cheaper for them. In the full interview, he praises them all over the place and talks about how upsetting it is that they're having such hard times. I definitely understand why they're upset about the state of the industry, but he doesn't seem to be the person they should be firing at.

Edited at 2013-02-26 11:43 am (UTC)
browniecakemix 26th-Feb-2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
Except that the biggest obstacle to VFX "being cheaper" isn't the cost of the technology, it's the cost of the man hours. The way things are going, they literally cannot afford to do their jobs, so that was an extremely naive/ignorant (at best) and disrespectful (at worst) comment for him to make.
tiddlywinks103 27th-Feb-2013 02:09 am (UTC)
OR English isn't his first language, not to mention he was too overwrought with winning to be succinct and perfect. And you STILL can't scapegoat him, like he tried to get all those people laid off, or that one word from Ang Lee would have fixed this.

I get that this is shitty in the extreme, but trying to ride Ang Lee's ass ain't gonna cut it. Push for a union, rights to negotiation that doesn't shit on the workers, etc. Don't write shitty public letters to Ang Lee, like it's his lone problem to fix. It's lazy and self-defeating.
maeir 26th-Feb-2013 01:23 am (UTC)
first of all, english isn't his first language and I think he was trying to make a simple remark on a complicated and touchy subject.

second, this person is pissed at Ang Lee because those guys got their speech cut short? AND for DP Claudio Miranda supposedly not thanking those same people in his 45 second speech? He has no control over these things!!

he's saying that Lee didn't thank the people who worked on the movie enough? Did he watch the backstage interview with Lee because that's pretty much all he did. How many times does he have to say something along the lines of, I share this award with everyone who helped bring this film to life for it to sink it to dimwits like this guy.

THis guy is a fucking moron. put the blame on the producers and the studio not the filmmaker because he wished that the technology was more widely available and not as expensive.

Edited at 2013-02-26 01:26 am (UTC)
odetobilliejoe 26th-Feb-2013 01:28 am (UTC)
Perfectly put.
tiddlywinks103 26th-Feb-2013 01:29 am (UTC)
It's like they picked the most prominent, not responsible, person, to get the most attention, and they just seem silly.
maeir 26th-Feb-2013 01:31 am (UTC)
I can understand that this person is upset but this open letter is complete bullshit. What Lee said is not offensive and everything else this person is taking offense to has nothing to do with the director.
green__desire 26th-Feb-2013 01:41 am (UTC)
No, people who think that its the 'technology' is making it expensive are the morons. It's the peoples SKILL and time that is 'expensive' though they pay them scraps and unpaid hours while raking in billions in profits from them.
anydoppelganger 26th-Feb-2013 01:44 am (UTC)
Exactly. I'm not sure if it's me or Broste who is misunderstanding Lee's statement, but I was under the impression that Lee was sympathetic toward the VFX houses. I mean he says right away that he wishes that it wasn't such a tough business and that "It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive." I understand Broste saying that it's costly because of the fair employment practices but I don't think Lee is advocating for decreased wages for the artists or anything like that. When he's talking about how he wishes it were cheaper, he doesn't mean for the movie studios to work with the VFX houses --he's just saying that he wishes it weren't so financially draining for the houses themselves.
kairoso 26th-Feb-2013 02:24 am (UTC)
IA with everything you said.
poetic_daze 26th-Feb-2013 01:26 am (UTC)
who is this whiny nobody? fool sit down
kytele 27th-Feb-2013 04:45 am (UTC)
oh look a totally unique educated comment.


do some reading if it's not that difficult for you
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