Members of the visual effects community turned to social media Sunday night to vent their anger and frustration over two Oscar moments that failed to address their concerns about their embattled industry.
When Life of Pi won the Oscar for visual effects, the film’s VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer — a Rhythm Hues employee — thanked RH artists and began to address the company’s recent bankruptcy filing. But his acceptance speech was cut short as the orchestra played him off with the theme from Jaws. And later, when Life of Pi director Ang Lee won the Oscar for best director, he failed to address the movie’s visual effects.
“Ouch! Played off and then mic cut off at the Oscars,” one commented in response to Westenhofer’s treatment, while another wrote, “We don’t have time to hear about Rhythm Hues but we have time for a Ted bit?”
After Lee’s win, one tweet read, “Ang Lee, you had such an opportunity to raise awareness there, with just a simple nod to them, but you didn’t. You let everyone down.” Wrote another: “VFX was truly the unsung hero last night. Disgraceful, Ang Lee.”
Just hours before Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, nearly 500 people representing the visual effects community gathered on Hollywood Boulevard to urge the film industry to focus on the economic problems threatening Hollywood’s VFX houses. The demonstration largely was prompted by the troubles facing RH — the house behind many of the visual effects in Life of Pi — and the fact that it filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Feb. 13.
The website VFXSoldier has posted an open letter to Lee, responding to remarks the director made during the Oscars as well as in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
The letter reads in part:
“When you say ‘I would like it to be cheaper,’ as an artist I take that personally. It took hundreds of hours from skilled artists and hard-working coordinators and producers to craft the environments and performances in Life of Pi. Not to mention the engineers that wrote all of that proprietary code and build the RH pipeline. That is where your money went. I’d say, judging from the night you just had, you got one hell of a deal.
“Incidentally, those were the same gorgeous sunsets and vistas that your DP Claudio Miranda took credit for without so much as a word of thanks to those artists. And the same animated performances that helped win you the best director statue. Nice of you to mention the pool crew, but maybe you could have thanked the guys and gals who turned that pool in to an ocean and put a tiger into that boat? … Mr. Lee, I do believe that you are a thoughtful and brilliant man. And a gifted filmmaker. But I also believe that you and everyone in your tier of our business is fabulously ignorant to the pain and turmoil you are putting artists through.”
The full letter can be found on the VFX Soldier web site.