More VFX folks are speaking out from inside the Marvel machine, and the picture being painted is not pretty. “The visual effects industry is filled with terrific people with lots of goodwill who really care but, at the end of the day, there’s nothing in place when their backs are up against the wall and Disney is making crazy demands,” Emmy Award winner Joe Pavlo, who worked on Guardians Of The Galaxy, tells The Guardian.
He describes “an atmosphere where everybody feels like this is the most desperately important thing and, if we don’t do it, we’re all fucked.” When Disney turns the screws, the pressure is passed on to VFX supervisors and down to the lowest rung of the ladder: “Bullying is a huge problem in our industry because everybody’s so desperate sometimes. It seems like there’s such a high level of stress and pressure on these jobs to complete on time, to change everything at the drop of a hat.”
Some of the last minute changes can be as “extreme” as replacing “a character with a different actor” or “changing the entire environment–they’re now in a pizza restaurant instead of a cornfield,” for example. Crucially, the time and effort that goes into designing these things aren’t as valued as it would be for practical effects. “If you imagine you get the art department to design a set, you wouldn’t get them to tear down the set and rebuild a completely different set 35 times,” Pavlo points out. “Because it’s digital, people don’t see it as the same thing but it is: it involves work and creativity and long hours. It doesn’t create itself.”
A solution to many of these problems is to organize and fight for protections across the industry. “Disney-Marvel is very famous for wanting multiple versions running parallel so that they can decide what they want,” Pavlo says, a tactic which shuts out other studios, while at the same time certain VFX houses have been blacklisted for not producing quickly enough. “A strong union would be able to reel that in a bit.” Hey, reel them in a whole lot while you’re at it—we don’t mind!