Where is the work? Or, Aftermath of the WGA and SAG Strikes

The visual effects (VFX) industry has long been an integral part of the filmmaking process, bringing fantastical worlds to life and enhancing storytelling through stunning visuals. However, the landscape of this industry has been significantly impacted by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strikes that occurred last Summer. These strikes, although primarily focused on issues affecting writers and actors, have had far-reaching consequences for the VFX sector (as well a many other connected industries!), affecting everything from project timelines to budgets.

Decreased Number of Shots and Budgets
One of the most immediate effects of the WGA and SAG strikes on the VFX industry has been the decrease in the number of shots and overall visual effects budgets allocated to projects. Studios and producers, facing uncertainty and delays caused by the strikes, have been forced to reevaluate their budgets and trim down on visual effects expenditure. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of VFX shots required for films and television shows, impacting the workload and revenue of VFX studios and professionals.

I recently had a conversation with an exec at Marvel who told me that he agreed with the strikes in principal, however the studio was simply cutting the number of shots—and even features!—that Marvel will produce in the near term.

Project Delays and Uncertainty
The strikes have also led to project delays and increased uncertainty within the VFX industry. With writers and actors picketing and negotiations stalled, many projects were put on hold or faced significant delays. This created a domino effect, disrupting the entire production pipeline, including pre-production, filming, and post-production stages where visual effects are integrated. The uncertainty surrounding project timelines and budgets further exacerbated the challenges faced by VFX studios and professionals, making it difficult to plan and allocate resources effectively.

Impact on VFX Studios and Professionals
The repercussions of the WGA and SAG strikes have been felt across the entire VFX ecosystem, affecting both large VFX studios, and freelancers. Smaller VFX studios, in particular, have been hit hard by the decrease in project budgets and the postponement of projects, leading to layoffs and financial strain. Freelance VFX artists and technicians have also faced challenges in securing consistent work and negotiating fair compensation amidst the industry-wide budget cuts.

In my case, there was simply been NO work available, other than a few smaller commercial jobs.

Adapting to a Changing Landscape
In response to the challenges posed by the strikes, VFX studios and professionals have had to adapt to a changing industry landscape. This has involved diversifying their client base, exploring opportunities in emerging markets such as streaming platforms and virtual production, and finding ways to streamline workflows and reduce costs without compromising on quality. Nonetheless, the sheer number of people with exceptional talent that are just sitting at home and searching for work in disheartening.

Looking Ahead
While the WGA and SAG strikes have undoubtedly had a significant impact on the VFX industry, the resilience and creativity of professionals within the sector have allowed it to weather the storm. VFX studios and professionals remain committed to delivering high-quality work and pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling, despite the challenges they face. The trick is, getting the work!

So Now What?
The WGA and SAG strikes last Summer have left a lasting impact on the visual effects industry, affecting project timelines, budgets, and the livelihoods of professionals across the board. A lot of studios have either shut down or furloughed employees, some for good. Nonetheless, the VFX community continues to navigate these challenges and remains dedicated to pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation in visual storytelling. We all love our work, and we aawnt to be a part of the process to entertain the masses. Let us go back to work!

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