Obama's L.A. Visit: VFX Community Planning Green-Shirt Protest

Activists hope 500 green T-shirts will greet the chief executive's visit to Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation in Glendale; one artist tells THR: "Our intent is to get the message to Obama that our jobs have left the country and VFX shops have gone bankrupt due to tax incentives."
Visual effects artists protest during the February 2013 Oscars.

In an effort to raise awareness of the struggling visual effects business, 500 T-shirts in green -- the color of the screen synonymous with visual effects, becoming symbolic of the industry's troubles -- have been purchased in the hopes that artists will wear them next week when President Obama visits Los Angeles, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

"Our intent is to get the message to President Obama that our jobs have left the country, and VFX shops have gone bankrupt due to tax incentives. There is hardly any VFX work left in Los Angeles," said digital artist Dave Rand, who has been involved in efforts to raise awareness of the issue, which included the rally held on Hollywood Boulevard during last February's Oscars.

The latest post on the VFX Soldier blog, a popular destination for the VFX community, urges the community to act. In particular, it points to next Tuesday's scheduled stop at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale as an opportunity to be seen. The post also said it's "doubtful" that a demonstration could take place outside of DWA because of security. But a source told THR that there are plans being discussed to stage a rally on Flower Street nearby.

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Friday's anonymous VFX Soldier post reads: "Things have gotten so bad that there is a petition going around urging a countervailing duty (CVD) to offset locations that offer subsidies. If I were in that audience, I'd simply say this: 'Mr. President, while this should be a growing industry, many of my colleagues in VFX are losing their jobs and being forced to move out of the country to places that offer huge subsidies. Would you support our effort to place a duty to offset these distorting subsidies? You have the sole authority to solve this problem right now and you can do it without Congress.'

"Now I doubt anyone would get a chance to ask the question, but my point about our CVD effort is this: We don't need the president or Congress to do this. All we need are two things: prove that we've been injured by these subsidies, and demonstrate that the majority of the domestic industry supports this effort. We are working hard to move forward and always appreciate the support. Wearing a green shirt is all you need to do to get the media to ask what this is all about."

The CVD effort was outlined earlier this year at Siggraph.

The VFX industry has been struggling for years, but attention on the issues affecting the so-called "race to the bottom" heightened in February when Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy not long before its work won an Oscar for Life of Pi.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA