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VFX Artists to Hold 'Pi Day' Town Hall Meeting

Life of Pi

Thursday's multi-city discussions aim to address the troubled visual effects business.

A group of visual effects artists are holding multi-city town hall meetings  on Thursday — what is being calling “Pi Day” — to discuss its embattled industry.

“We walked together on Oscar Day. We were insulted together on Oscar Night. We changed our profile pictures to green and raised awareness around the world. Where do we go from here? Let’s get together for an international town hall meeting and discuss it,” reads a promo for the event.

“Pi Day” — originally suggested as a day for a walkout but not all agreed — has evolved into a multi-city international meeting at sites including the Gnomon School of VFX in Hollywood, as well as locations in Austin, San Francisco, Vancouver and Wellington, NZ. The discussions will also be streamed online. A related meeting is scheduled to take place March 28 in London.

STORY: WHY VFX Houses Lose Money on Big Movies

The event’s name refers to Life of Pi, this year’s Oscar winner for VFX. The film’s lead VFX house Rhythm & Hues declared bankruptcy not long before this year’s Academy Awards, putting a spotlight on the industry’s problems and prompting artists to demonstration on Hollywood Boulevard on Oscar Sunday.

The Visual Effects Society, a global honorary society for the VFX industry, said it plans to arrange a "VFX Congress" to discuss the issues, and also urged California to increase tax incentives.

Some of the factors affecting the business include intense competitive bidding that leads to companies taking on projects at low, fixed bids; globalization, as government incentives and cheap labor abroad has created an uneven playing field; and tight profit margins -- often 5 percent or less -- that can be endangered if a project is canceled or delayed.

There's currently no consensus on how to address the situation. Suggestions include formation of a union and/or a trade association.

This past week a California federal bankruptcy judge approved an auction for the sale of R&H. South Korea’s JS Communications has been established as the "Stalking Horse Bidder." Interested buyers will have to make bids by March 22. The auction will be held March 27, and a hearing on the approval of the sale will happen the following day.