Marvel movies are some of the biggest things in the world, bringing in millions and billions of dollars for the Marvel actors, the Marvel executives, and the Disney executives, but it’s been depressingly clear for a while now that the money doesn’t always make it down to the people with the biggest and most obvious contributions to these movies. Comic book creators have pointed that out in the past, but now the VFX artists who work on Marvel movies are speaking out about unfair working conditions as well.
Or, at least, one specific (and anonymous) VFX artist is talking about that in a new piece for Vulture. The essay says that it’s “darkly joked about” in the visual-effects world that working on Marvel stuff is “really hard,” with the writer saying they had “six months of overtime every day” while working on one Marvel movie, averaging “64 hours a week on a good week,” with coworkers who would have “anxiety attacks,” “break down,” and “start crying” from work.
The writer blames this on a few things, one being that Marvel has so much clout in the movie business and demands so much VFX work for its movies and TV shows that studios are basically forced to undercut every other studio’s bids in order to get any work at all, which results in Marvel getting a sweet deal on VFX and the VFX studios being severely underpaid and overworked. The writer says their team on one Marvel movie consisted of only two people, whereas they’d have “a team of ten” on any other movie.
Marvel apparently is also “famous” for regularly changing what it’s asking for, often with little advance warning, forcing VFX artists to—for example—help “change the entire third act” of a movie “maybe a month or two” before it comes out. The writer says one studio that couldn’t accommodate this quick turnaround time no longer gets any work from Marvel and has “effectively been blacklisted.”
The writer also says that Marvel is known to “pixel-fuck” VFX artists, which is when they “nitpick over every little pixel” even if nobody would ever notice it and even if Marvel itself can’t exactly define what it wants. Marvel (and also Disney in general) is also known to do dramatic reshoots late in the moviemaking process, which adds to the pressure on VFX studios.
The other main issue, as the writer sees it, is that Marvel tends to use directors without a lot of VFX experience. “A lot of them have just done little indies at the Sundance Film Festival,” the writer argues, so they “don’t know how to visualize something that’s not there yet, that’s not on set with them.” The writer says this leads to issues where VFX artists are forced to work without the involvement of the film’s director of photography, which they say is the reason for why “the physics are completely off” and the break in “the visual language of the film” in the final battle of Black Panther.
Ultimately, the writer says Marvel needs to do more to teach its directors how to work with VFX, but also that VFX studios need to work on unionization (a good idea for people in any industry!) and get protections that will keep egregious stuff like 63-hour work weeks from happening.