HOLLYWOOD, CA – As had been widely expected, Ang Lee’s stereoscopic 3D feature, Life of Pi, took home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. And in a low moment for the Oscars, the award recipients were drummed off the stage by the orchestra, which played the theme from Jaws over Bill Westenhofer’s acceptance speech just as he began to mention troubled VFX company Rhythm & Hues and the current plight of the VFX industry.
Rhythm & Hues, the VFX house behind the CG tiger in Life of Pi, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week despite infusions of studio cash, leading to mass layoffs affecting roughly 250 employees and a class-action lawsuit.
To bring awareness to the problems facing the visual effects industry, members of the community, many of them former R&H staffers, organized a protest during the red-carpet portion of the ceremony, including a plane commissioned to fly a banner that read “BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM.”
The protest reportedly drew over 450 attendees, as well as attention online on Twitter and Facebook. The online VFX community erupted after Westenhofer’s acceptance speech was cut short, with comments such as “Sad moment when the orchestra cut off the "Life of Pi" guys trying to give a shout-out to struggling R&H,” “The Jaws play off would've been amusing if the VFX house Rhythm and Hues hadn't just filed for bankruptcy,” and “wow, that was painful. The Pi VFX guys all got eaten by Jaws.”
Congratulations to Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, Donald R. Elliott, and the crews of Rhythm & Hues and Moving Picture Company.