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Campaign to End Subsidies in the Visual Effects Industry

Big Hollywood Studios receive huge amounts of taxpayer dollars for sending visual effects work away. It's time to take a stand and put a stop to it.

Professionals in the Visual Effects Industry are interested in obtaining legal counsel to challenge and mitigate subsidies that violate international trade agreements.

This crowd-funded campaign will involve a series of distinct stages where supporters can donate funds if they support the plan. If the funding goal is reached at the end of each stage, the specified plan is executed. If funding is not reached, the money donated for that stage is not withdrawn from donors’ accounts.

The first stage will be a feasibility study conducted by the law firm for a fixed fee of $15,000 ($15,000 + $1,130 PayPal and Indiegogo fee). Once the law firm receives funding, they will conduct a study that will evaluate what options are available to mitigate and/or eliminate subsidies. Once a strategy and objective is proposed, it will be presented to potential donors in the next stage for approval.

The course of action will ultimately be determined by the ability to fund it. If you support the course of action you can make a pledge. If the funding goal is reached the money will be withdrawn from the donors' accounts and go directly to the law firm. At no point does the money enter anyone else's hands, including VFX Soldier’s.

All donors' identities will be kept private.

Who Are We?

We are professionals who help create visual effects and animation for blockbusters by the "Big Six" US major film studios: Warner Bros., Disney, Sony, Paramount, Fox, and Universal on films like The Avengers, Avatar, Spider-Man, and Transformers.

Who Created This Campaign?

http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/

I am an anonymous working VFX professional who runs a site called VFX Soldier started almost 3 years ago concerning the adverse issues in our industry. I've helped expose nefarious practices by various schools, studios, and facilities which have been covered by national and international media outlets.

I've also written extensively on the volatility caused by subsidies and have submitted public consultation to the European Commission which has been published and will be used as guidance in their decision on film subsidy policy in Europe.

How Do Subsidies Adversely Affect Us?

While the US studios are making billions on these films and there is a huge boom in VFX, you'd be surprised to learn that many VFX facilities lose money and many talented VFX professionals constantly lose their jobs as they globe-trot around the world chasing the next project to work on. The reason for much of this is that subsidies are being offered to US studios by various international and state and local governments.

What Are Subsidies And How Do They Work In The VFX Industry?

Many professionals work for VFX facilities like Industrial Light & Magic, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Weta Digital, MPC, Digital Domain, and many others. When a US studio makes a film, the VFX facilities competitively bid to be awarded the work.

While this model has its issues, what has compounded the problem is that various state, local, and international governments offer huge amounts of taxpayer money to the US studios to lure VFX work to their region. This money, which is essentially corporate welfare, has led to a barrier to market economics where the costs of Visual Effects are distorted.

This has led to some studios actually requiring VFX facilities to open satellite studios in subsidized regions and move the work there. This leads to huge costs and large amounts of debt for facility owners who are just trying to maintain the ability to do VFX work. Many that have not been able to make the jump have gone out of business. Many professionals who are unable to move are laid off, leading to bankruptcy and often foreclosure if they own a home.

No matter how good you are, no matter how efficient you are, VFX facilities and professionals are at the mercy of the next government that offers unlimited amounts of corporate welfare.

How Do Subsidies Violate International Trade Agreements?

It turns out that many subsidies violate international trade agreements. There are also many mechanisms that allow legal counsel to represent us and formally challenge them.

In order to encourage the spread of market economics around the globe, many international governments have signed on to trade agreements through the WTO and NAFTA. Many of these agreements contain provisions that prohibit subsidies.

According to many international trade lawyers, subsidies are a form of protectionism that create a barrier to market economics. Because this barrier has continued to exist in the film industry, various localities are in a race to the bottom as they compete to take taxpayer money from health and education services and throw it at incredibly rich US studios who threaten to leave the minute the gravy train stops.

How Do We Intend To Challenge VFX Subsidies?

After contacting numerous law firms that specialize in international trade law, we have decided to enlist counsel that we feel is realistic and experienced in challenging subsidies.

This team consists of counsel that have worked in trade related branches of the government including the Office of the US Trade Representative. They have had a history in helping domestic professionals mitigate the effect of international subsidies used by producers, similar to those that harm our industry.

With your help we intend to begin funding the first stage in a legal effort to challenge the subsidies. This first stage will be a feasibility study where we will begin working with counsel to explore what direct legal options are available and what would be the best route for success. They will also begin taking statements from various professionals in the industry to help determine what the next stages will be.

At the beginning of each stage we will present a proposal and seek to crowd-fund it. Your support for each stage along the way will be determined by the ability to fund it.

Why Should Individuals Help Fund This Campaign?

We live in an age where the very rich and powerful denounce the use of public funds to help the rest of us when we are in trouble. Yet when they find themselves in trouble they immediately beg for government bailouts.

This isn't even the case for the US Studios. They make billions of dollars and still demand billions in free government money.

With so much news about how corporations take advantage of subsidies, wouldn't it be great to help support a grassroots effort to effectively take them on? Join us!

Why Should VFX Professionals Help Fund This Campaign?

If you are a VFX professional aware of the volatility caused by subsidies but are reluctant to help fund this campaign, consider how huge the costs could be for doing nothing:

  • costs of moving
  • having to sell items that can’t easily be moved, such as cars, furniture, televisions
  • breaking rental leases
  • having to pay rent in addition to a mortgage
  • having to find someone to rent your home
  • missing mortgage payments and, potentially, facing foreclosure

Even if you are good, efficient, and cost effective at your job, studios will want you to chase your job around the globe to whichever government is offering the next big subsidy.

Compare the costs of doing nothing and I'll bet it's much larger than the costs of a generous donation to this campaign. This is a small investment that could lead to a very large return: The end of use of subsidies in the VFX industry.

Why Should VES Members Help Fund This Campaign?

Some members of the Visual Effects Society are frustrated that the organization that they are a part of has a charter that specifically limits them from taking action on issues like subsidies. I am kindly asking those members to donate their funds to this campaign instead as we have no such charter that limits our ability to take action.

Why Should VFX Facilities Help Fund This Campaign?

VFX Facilities know the huge impact of subsidies. Some facilities have seen healthy profit margins disappear after some US studios required them to open satellites in subsidized regions of the world. This campaign allows them the ability to anonymously challenge subsidies without disrupting their relationship with the US Studios.

Why Should Future VFX Facility Owners Fund This Campaign?

Many VFX professionals yearn to break out and start their own small facilities. The subsidies prevent that by allowing facilities in subsidized regions to artificially beat your price by 30-50%! The costs for you to open a satellite facility in another region would be too much for you to continue. In order to make the jump into ownership, you need to be able to compete by eliminating market distortion and ending the subsidies.

Why Should Games & Animation Professionals Fund This Campaign?

Subsidies already play a huge role in the games and animation industry. We may be able to stop those subsidies if we are successful.

Who Is The Law Firm's Client?

We have resolved Indiegogo issues and the Campaign to End VFX Subsidies is now back on-line. In response to their diligence, we have clarified that the law firm is preparing a feasibility study with VFX Soldier as its client so that it receives direction from one client and does not have independent attorney-client relationships with each contributor to the campaign. Once the feasibility study is completed by the firm, that work product will be transmitted to the client, VFX Soldier. If and when, as a result of the feasibility study, VFX Soldier and the law firm determine that there is legal action that is worth pursuing, those parties will reevaluate the representation, redefine its scope, and, potentially, after consultation with any appropriate additional parties, redefine who the law firm's client is for the next stage.



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