If you’ve seen them around Tumblr you may be asking this. The short answer is that it’s a form of solidarity.
The long answer, well, let me try to put it in the most concise way possible:
At the Oscars Sunday night, The Life of Pi won best Visual Effects (VFX) award. The animals on that boat, the ocean, and the backgrounds are all visual effects, meaning there are guys and girls in a cramped studio creating and animating these characters, painting the sky and water as realistically as possible so that Suraj Sharma doesn’t look like an idiot talking to himself on a boat bobbing up and down in a pool inside a small building.
The studio who did exactly this and helped made the movie a sucess that it was, Rhythm and Hues, have recently let go a bunch of their artists and filed in for bankruptcy because they were not making enough to survive.
This is a big issue surrounding the VFX community. Movies with VFX make hundreds of millions, even billions, but with Hollywood execs continuously trying to lower costs, the VFX industry has become a battle royale of studios tabling bids to work on movies for the least amount of pay. This is VFX studios (as well as their artists) have been finding it difficult to survive in this industry. When receiving the award, Bill Westenhofer of Rhythm and Hues tried to bring up this issue, only to be droned out by the music from Jaws and eventually, when he wouldn’t stop, they shut down his mic. There were also protests happening outside the Dolby Theatre, but of course all of that was censored from being broadcasted.
I’m not a VFX artist, but I’m an artist, and most of you here are too, whether you’re professional, semi-professional, amateur, hobbyist, or just an admirer. I’m not trying to patronize you to take sides, or to boycott or make petitions (both are usually useless), but I do want you all to be aware of this issue and spread it so more people are aware, because eventually you’re the one paying to be entertained, and you can’t possibly be happy when you realize that a good chunk of the money you’re paying isn’t going to the artists who worked hard to entertain you. Keep in mind that I’m not advocating for artists to be given a share of the profit that a movie makes, but when you’re working a 16-hour day, including weekends, to meet the deadline that the producers give you (that’s 112 hours per week, by the way), and you’re only getting paid for a 40-hour week, something is seriously wrong.
More on this you can read up in these articles, as they’ve been written a lot more eloquently. Be informed, let others know, create a discussion. Understand what it is you’re enjoying.
VFX Community Snubbed - Drew McWeeny at Hitflix
Oscar protest you didn’t know happened - Big Social Picture
State of the VFX industry: what’s going on at other studios.
Essentially, Hollywood execs are pulling the equivalent of the internet’s ignorant view that because something is “digitally” created, then all they need is the computers to create the art, and not the artists behind the computers. There is no computer or program creating these visual effects. There are, however, passionate artists using these computers as a mere tool to create these visuals, and it’s these artists who deserve the respect and the fair treatment of the studio execs.
On a lighter note, if they have some sort of movement or protest group, I really hope they name it “50 Shades of Green.”
There is a staff writer from Grantland, Brian Phillips, who is really good. He has admirable abilities to convey a mood, to place a reader within the story alongside him, and to compose elegant prose that is never stuffy. He is a gifted writer.
Phillips is a deft reporter, as well. He goes places, he talks to people, he lives and then captures experiences. His writing talent would mean much less if he weren’t venturing forth, because while he would be among the best of the at-home observers, he’d still be sitting at home like everyone else. Everyone else has become a problem.
Most internet writers were empowered by the internet’s growth last decade, when websites emerged as the preeminent vehicles for entertainment, news, and commentary. Personal blogs, in particular, anointed a new class of informed, passionate people who could suddenly fashion themselves as writers and pundits. With nothing more than a hyperlink, an embedded YouTube video, or a photograph lifted from somewhere else, anyone could publish opinions, serve as a filter, and attempt to lead a conversation. Accordingly, the aughts yielded wonderful compositions, dazzling creativity, and a generally smarter level of discourse about everything for any reader interested in finding it. ESPN no longer had to dictate terms of the debate about Vince Carter, the New York Times no longer enjoyed a monopoly on vicarious political rage, and music magazines became totems of a sillier time.
Naturally, talent differentiated itself as years went by, and leading sites of all kind rose out of this primordial internet ooze. Admirers, imitators, Canal-Street knockoff peddlers, and secondary contributors followed them. Eventually, there was an archipelago of great websites across which readers could travel, the access easy and the proximity to other ports of greater and lesser repute never too strained.
Regrettable things have since followed, and by no means am I setting out a definitive, or even chronological, history: the best writers left their websites for jobs with established media companies; established media companies asked these writers—along with many who really shouldn’t be in these jobs—to make content sound blog-ish; cross-site discourse fell off, with the power to shape a conversation aggregated among sites from which so much content now flows down a hierarchy; memes and traffic-generation schemes quickly eroded what had once been innovative ideas; a shared conversational tone predominated, suggesting that certain content was supposed to sound certain ways; a once open and growing system became a series of echo chambers as writers and readers congregated in various places where they could feel good about participating with each other. Websites have grown incredibly stale as a result, and most with passable content have lost differentiating elements.
Worst of all, as these changes crept across the internet and cemented a way to do business, so to speak, they reinforced the notion that everyone can be an expert while staying at home and living life behind a series of screens. The guy who scours the internet for a news story—big or quirky—repackages it with a block quote, a picture, some vague “analysis,” and a joke or two thinks he’s an expert. Even if he doesn’t, he is presented as one all the same. Ditto the gal who watches TV and writes an episode recap in the episode-recap narrative voice for her media-giant boss. All of these sorts of people are supposed experts. It’s implicit, after all—why else should I care what he or she thinks about something that happened for him or her just as it happened for me?
This sucks. The internet has gotten lazy, caught in the aughts, as it were. A decade of growth and exciting ideas inspired by democratization of content has metastasized in websites that put out self-conscious, largely contrived, meta content—what writers think they are supposed to produce. This plateau is extended and populated by a wave of writers who, frankly, don’t have much to offer: not original voices, not fresh ideas, not diversity of experience.
That is where reporting comes in. More websites with resources should be investing in reporting. Give me fewer content aggregators masquerading as “writers”; fewer people who spend most of their lives in front of the television, computer, or smart phone and write like they only know other people doing the same. Instead, find talent—be it a good blogger or an actual investigative journalist (“investigative” meaning everything from Watergate to a person who knows what just happened at the community garden)—and tell that person to go cover something. I’d much rather read that than another essay purporting to offer insight but informed by nothing more than being at home with the resources to lead that lifestyle. Lived experience yields the best writing, and the internet—at least, as I know it—continues to bury that truth under turgid, arm’s-length writing.
Let’s not neglect some important caveats, by the way. Some writers are actually quite good at leading a discussion. Some have a gift for parsing through content and identifying what truly matters and what truly is entertaining. Spencer Hall from Every Day Should Be Saturday is a fine example. (And he, of course, will go cover stuff sometimes.) Others have innate analytic skills that make a life led behind a series of screens something that actually informs good writing. See Zach Lowe, for instance. (And again, I don’t want to sell him short; I am sure he gets on the phone with people, and I know he goes to basketball games.) Still more are great essayists, the sort who can provide a helpful, challenging context even when they are not personally involved. Andrew Sharp has done this well in the last year or so. And, of course, there is now Twitter, a place where anyone can receive instant reporting from credible sources and the kind of brilliant, insightful, diversified wisdom of crowds that once imbued blog culture.
Not everyone is a Hall or a Lowe, though. Were we to send so many of the underwhelming bloviators out into the field, most would not be a Phillips. (Lord knows most people who watch Game of Thrones and become TV experts for ponying up the HBO money will not be a Nancy Franklin any time soon.) However, websites need to find something new, and reporting—adding experiences that are unique—seems like a great way to start. The prevailing order is terribly out of date.
Good journalism is about organization. It’s about strategically presenting “pure information” (as pure as you can give, anyway) in a way that appeals to the reader’s emotion - a way that touches them enough to persuade them to change their mind about something.
“Marie Sklodowska and Pierre Curie wed on July 26, 2985. She wore a navy suit and a blue striped blouse. They took their honeymoon bicycles, riding along the coast of Brittany and into the French countryside, her handlebars festooned with flowers. These excursions would become a favorite custom.”
- Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss