What is the response from other directors and studio heads?
EW reached out to several other directors of visual effects-driven films aside from Emmerich and to all six major Hollywood studios for this article. George Lucas, Life of Pi director Ang Lee, Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures declined to comment, while other directors and studios have not returned EW’s request for an interview for this story. The Directors Guild of America was not able to make a guild representative available for an interview.
Lee, however, has responded to questions about the visual effects industry while at recent events. He has praised the VFX artists but has voiced dissatisfaction with the costs of their work. On the Oscars red carpet he told EW, that Rhythm & Hues employees “worked with me for two, three years, and every one of them I consider them artists, not technicians,” echoing visual effects artists’ recently vocalized sentiments that their work is not merely “technical” as often described, but also artistic.
When he appeared at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Awards, Lee said, “I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]…. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every [VFX] house.”
The Life of Pi director has come under fire for that remark, spurring Zoic Studios visual effects artist Phillip Broste to write an open letter in response, explaining why VFX artists take that statement personally and why it is expensive to create visual effects-heavy films. Bruce Branit, owner of Branit FX, pointed out in a lengthy Facebook post that Lee “has not discussed how actors’ salaries could be cheaper, or how director or producer’s percentages could be limited.”
More recently, at a press event promoting Life of Pi’s Blu-ray release this Sunday, Lee said, “For a movie like this, it’s very common for visual effects to take up half the budget. Some of those segments are so expensive. Millions of dollars have to be spent before the studio can see it. How do they approve that budget?”
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