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Hollywood Visual Effects Go Global

Many of today’s Hollywood blockbuster movies include stunning visual effects. Most of those effects used to be produced in Hollywood, but that has changed. Now, one film can include visual effects produced in many different countries.

Tommy Williamson is passionate about filmmaking . As a former visual effects supervisor, he worked on many Hollywood blockbusters, but not anymore.

“It kind of breaks my heart to leave the whole thing; in fact I don’t even say that I left. I said it left me," said Williamson.

Thanks to technology, visual effects work can be done anywhere in the world and more Hollywood films are including work from other countries.

"In the last five to seven years is where you’ve seen an explosion of content getting processed in different parts of the world," said Venkatesh Roddam, chief executive officer of India-based Reliance MediaWorks. "Not just India, but China, Taiwan, Korea, India; these are all the markets that content from Hollywood is going to."

Countries such as India offer lower costs, and some are offering financial incentives for work to be done there.

“I’ve been at 12 different visual effects companies. [I’ve] been on the staff of five, all of which have gone bankrupt for one reason or another; basically it’s only two, the way we work and the subsidy race that’s driven so many of them out of business," said Dave Rand.

Rand and Daniel Lay, co-founders of the Association of Digital Artists, Professionals &Technicians, say that subsidies offered by other countries are driving work out of Hollywood. He says the solution lies in the U.S. federal courts.

“The United States government puts very strong anti-subsidy laws that have been around for years that allow for domestic industries that are being injured by these international subsidies to seek relief through the trade courts," Lay said.

He wants a U.S. federal court to levy a mandatory tax on the work produced outside the U.S.

“It’s not a progressive idea. “You are actually artificially pumping up the cost. You are limiting talent availability," said Roddam.

Roddam says currently Hollywood can draw from an international talent pool.

It’s benefiting artists like Kunal Chindarkar, who works on Hollywood movies from Singapore for visual effects company Double Negative.

“The people that are working with me right now in Double Negative are...are from all over the world. We have people from Australia, from U.K., from France," he said.

Roddam says working with Hollywood improves the quality of work worldwide. He says the key to a visual effects company’s survival is to also branch out into other areas of filmmaking.

Firms also need a presence in countries where the work is done, and that includes the U.S.

“You cannot survive in this marketplace without a physical presence here," Roddam said. "So from that perspective, companies like ours will continue to create American jobs in America, rather than actually think about how much of this work is going to Canada or U.K. or India or China."

Roddam also says the visual effects industry will continue to evolve and those who want to stay in the business will have to continue to adapt.