Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


VFX Workers Fight Back With Ramifications for New Zealand

VFX Workers Fight Back With Ramifications for New Zealand

By Jamie Neikrie

Despite record hauls for summer blockbuster movies, companies that produce the ground-breaking visual effects (VFX) for the U.S movie industry have suffered in the States.

As countries like Canada, the U.K, and New Zealand continue to provide budget breaks to big-budget films, U.S movie studios have increasingly shifted their business overseas. Just a couple months ago, the New Zealand government announced that it would raise subsidies for film productions from 15-20 per cent, with an additional five per cent reduction for movies that will provide an economic benefit to the country. This announcement came just before it was revealed that James Cameron would receive a 25% tax rebate to film three Avatar sequels here and The Hobbit films enjoyed $67.1 million in rebates in their second year of production.

Much of physical shooting remains tethered to Los Angeles and New York. Production costs to ship movies overseas would simply be too much. But visual effects can easily be sent overseas, where movie companies can benefit from favourable tax structures. It is this business that has boosted Wellington’s movie industry. In last year alone, “Wellywood’s” Weta Digital provided effects work on blockbusters like The Hobbit, Iron Man 3, and The Wolverine.

Visual effects workers in the United States have long been calling for Congress to intervene on their behalf. But they have had to fight the powerful Motion Picture Association of America’s annual lobbying budget of $4.7 million.

As the Hollywood Reporter cited, the six major U.S studios represented by the MPAA “generated more than $4.3 billion in operating profit in 2013, up 23 per cent from $3.5 billion in 2012.” Profits are skyrocketing for U.S movie companies–in part because of cheap, foreign labour–and the MPAA doesn’t want Washington to change that.

It is no wonder then, haemorrhaging jobs to overseas studios, that U.S VFX studios have continued to close. As The Verge reported, Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy in the same year it won an Oscar for its visual effects work on Life of Pi. Digital Domain, which provided VFX for Titanic, was declared bankrupt in 2012. “Even Dreamworks (was) forced to lay off 350 employees.”

However, thanks to strange turn of events, the U.S VFX industry may finally have some firepower to fight back. Their source; the MPAA’s own words.

Last month, lawyers hired Daniel Lay, the blogger behind the influential website, “VFX Soldier,” uncovered a legal document where the MPAA weighed in on a minor International Trade Commission case involving 3-D printers. In that filing, obtained by Pando Daily, the MPAA argued that digital goods should be considered imports and therefore are subject to stringent copyright protections.

The MPAA wrote

The need to regulate the burgeoning international trade in digital intellectual property is widely recognized by U.S policymakers. The U.S government has consistently recognized that international trade in digital forms of intellectual property is every bit as “real” as trade in traditional manufactured good.

The use of electronic means to import into the United States infringing articles threatens important domestic industries such as the motion picture and software industries.

In short, by arguing for protection of the movie industry, the MPAA just used the exact logic and rhetoric the U.S VFX industry has been using for years.

If movies should be recognized as imports then so too should visual effects work. Meaning that the VFX industry would receive the same Congressional provisions used to combat subsidies for physical goods like steel and lumber.

If Lay’s lawyers succeed in convincing the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission that foreign subsidies have been undercutting the U.S visual effects industry, which shouldn’t be a stretch using the MPAA’s logic, then Congress will be force to put trade tariffs on those studios’ own productions in high subsidy countries like New Zealand.

It’s hard to undervalue the effect this could have on New Zealand’s movie industry. If tariffs make exporting post-production work no longer economically feasible or logical for U.S movie studios, companies like Weta Productions will see their business drop substantially.

We have already seen the New Zealand government increasing subsidies to compete with other countries seeking to attract U.S movie studios. If it has to factor tariffs into the economic appeal for U.S movie studios, how low is New Zealand willing to go?

The U.S movie industry is the world movie industry. Without the six movie studios that make up the MPAA, Wellywood could be no more.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Sky City : Auckland Convention Centre Cost Jumps By A Fifth

SkyCity Entertainment Group, the casino and hotel operator, is in talks with the government on how to fund the increased cost of as much as $130 million to build an international convention centre in downtown Auckland, with further gambling concessions ruled out. The Auckland-based company has increased its estimate to build the centre to between $470 million and $530 million as the construction boom across the country drives up building costs and design changes add to the bill.
More>>

ALSO:

RMTU: Mediation Between Lyttelton Port And Union Fails

The Rail and Maritime Union (RMTU) has opted to continue its overtime ban indefinitely after mediation with the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) failed to progress collective bargaining. More>>

Earlier:

Science Policy: Callaghan, NSC Funding Knocked In Submissions

Callaghan Innovation, which was last year allocated a budget of $566 million over four years to dish out research and development grants, and the National Science Challenges attracted criticism in submissions on the government’s draft national statement of science investment, with science funding largely seen as too fragmented. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Spark, Voda And Telstra To Lay New Trans-Tasman Cable

Spark New Zealand and Vodafone, New Zealand’s two dominant telecommunications providers, in partnership with Australian provider Telstra, will spend US$70 million building a trans-Tasman submarine cable to bolster broadband traffic between the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. More>>

ALSO:

More:

Statistics: Current Account Deficit Widens

New Zealand's annual current account deficit was $6.1 billion (2.6 percent of GDP) for the year ended September 2014. This compares with a deficit of $5.8 billion (2.5 percent of GDP) for the year ended June 2014. More>>

ALSO:

Still In The Red: NZ Govt Shunts Out Surplus To 2016

The New Zealand government has pushed out its targeted return to surplus for a year as falling dairy prices and a low inflation environment has kept a lid on its rising tax take, but is still dangling a possible tax cut in 2017, the next election year and promising to try and achieve the surplus pledge on which it campaigned for election in September. More>>

ALSO:

Job Insecurity: Time For Jobs That Count In The Meat Industry

“Meat Workers face it all”, says Graham Cooke, Meat Workers Union National Secretary. “Seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts, and increasing pressure on workers to join non-union individual agreements. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news