Confronting Change at the VES Summit
Bill Mechanic, producer and CEO, Pandemonium Films, delivered the day's most refreshing point of view. While those in the vfx side of the business have their strong opinions, many times they're afraid of voicing them out of fear of being singled out and blacklisted. Mechanic, on the other hand, speaks the truth about our business and our times. Right out of the gate he stated "movies are getting bigger and worse," comparing the golden age year of 1939 with this current movie season. With the exception of Inception, every film was animated, a remake or a sequel. The top 10 films accounted for 90% of the box office.
Mechanic emphasized the necessity of trust within the members of a film and made the point of saying that depriving the director of the final cut takes trust out of the equation.
In matters of finance, he admitted that the unlimited amounts of money that films now consume are not good for the movies. The absence of limitations is the death of art and at this rate only three movies a year will endure. He also suggested that the introduction of the Blu-ray was mis-timed and only represented a marginal increase in quality that frankly only those of us in this business would notice. Video on Demand will also take a long time to become the chosen method of distribution.
One of the more telling and humorous remarks came from Jenny Fulle, founder and visual effects producer of the Creative Cartel and VFXWorld contributor. In discussing "adapting to ever-changing roles," she said that is no longer necessary to park your film in one facility. To further point out how the computer has made inroads into our business, she stated that "85% of the work done today can be done on a workstation that you can buy at Best Buy with some modification and a pipeline." Fulle also brought to the fore the notion that there is a global digital community and that the task of on the job training has largely migrated from the studios to the larger digital community. This has all been facilitated by the drop in cost of hardware and software.
The abiding feeling among the panelists is that the future belongs to the "risk takers." Warren Franklin, CEO Rainmaker Ent./vice chair, DigiBC, mentioned the fact there is a shift toward creating our own content in addition to providing service work to others. Cliff Plumer, CEO, Digital Domain, which has the eagerly awaited Tron: Legacy coming Dec.17, promoted the idea of becoming true partners in the process with the hopes of making some real money.
Rick Kerrigan writes the VFX Beat blog for AWN (http://www.awn.com/blogs/vfx-beat). He began his career as an assistant visual effects cameraman on The Empire Strikes Back, has also worked on The Right Stuff, Ghostbusters and Ally McBeal, where he supervised the Dancing Baby episode.