HaZ looks at the trend for post production and VFX to be moved overseas and asks the question: what does this mean to new and existing visual effects artists?
Productions will always look for the best use of their budgets. With tax breaks and shelters giving them incentives for shooting and doing post/vfx in finance-friendly region or country then it’s a no-brainer - and people will need to adapt to this.
Over the years, countries like Canada have attracted a huge number of productions to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal with projects being shot there with VFX and post-production alongside.
While California (which at one time was the Hub of VFX work) continues to struggle with no tax incentives to offer, the artists start to suffer too with a lack of work - and are forced to travel further or relocate. States like Louisiana attracted a lot of productions since the inception of its tax relief scheme and cost effective location shoots, and smaller studios have even started cropping up around that area to make good use of the favourable conditions.
It’s not just happening in North America. For years mainland Europe has been an attractive tax shelter for shooting and post-production.
Belgium has seen an increase in visual effects work over the years with key studios such as Mikros Image (Paris) and Filmmore (Amsterdam) having a visual effects base in Brussels, to not only make good use of the tax shelters but also to take on the increasing number of local European productions, as well as offer tax shelter incentives and consultancy to producers outside of Europe.
Early this Summer I was in Brussels sequence-supervising a BBC and HBO production – ‘Parades End’ where the post and vfx were done in Brussels.
Lets also not forget the studios in Berlin, Bulgaria and Prague who do significant amounts of major-league Hollywood VFX work, from shooting to post and VFX.
There are a number of visual effects studios that understand this and tailor their business model to accommodate it to get the bigger shows (both films and TV), but the one that stands out for me buy making this internationalism part of their core VFX business model is Pixomondo, with offices in Shanghai, London, Frankfurt, Baton Rouge and LA.
Having a studio in a location with attractive tax shelters to get the projects in is one thing, but to deliver the projects you need talent: visual effects artists, producers and supervisors. Usually to comply with the tax break regulations you need to hire local talent or it must be based in the region for the duration of the project.
Visual effects professionals now need to be more flexible about the location of their next gig and need to look at their career as international rather than local, and be prepared to make use of the Eurostar, book flights and apply for visas etc.
Having a family and other commitments make it hard to just pick yourself up and relocate, but artists in London who are suffering from the recent lack of work can always hop on the Eurostar or a cheap flight to the European studios, and make it back for the weekend; and most of the studios offer paid accommodation.
The new breed of artists stepping into their VFX career straight out of a VFX course at college or university should leap at the opportunities offered abroad and build up a portfolio of work and contacts internationally. And, importantly, they should maintain that international relationship, as you can never rely on work in just one country. In the future, film production will increasingly move around the world, taking the VFX work with it - as well as the cool project you want to be part of.
Lastly let's not forget Singapore, which has attracted the likes of ILM, Double Negative and others. There are local artists, but the local talent needs to work with international Senior Artists, Leads and supervisors too.
In another article I will be writing shortly this month I will give some tips on working as an international visual effects artist from my personal experience in VFX Globe trotting - so stay tuned for that coming soon.