Visual effects workers are protesting the bankruptcy filing of Rhythm… (20th Century Fox )
Ang Lee's acclaimed 3-D movie "Life of Pi" is a front-runner to win a top visual effects award at the Oscars.
But some of the people who worked on the film's dazzling visual effects aren't celebrating. In fact, they're planning to stage a protest to call attention to their own plight -- and that of California visual effects workers in general.
A group of visual effects workers has arranged to have a plane fly a banner over the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood during the red carpet Academy Awards pre-show to protest their circumstances.
The banner will read: "box office + bankrupt = visual effects vfxunion.com." That's a reference to the recent bankruptcy filing by Rhythm & Hues. The El Segundo studio also laid off 250 employees, prompting a class-action lawsuit from one former employee alleging the workers were not given proper notice.
"There's a huge irony happening right now," said Dave Rand, a senior visual effects artist at Rhythm & Hues. " 'Life of Pi' is up for best picture and best visual effects, yet the company that did most of the show is in Chapter 11 and the artists haven't been paid in five weeks."
Rhythm & Hues has obtained financing from two studios to finish work on current projects and has hired the financial advisory firm Houlihan Lokey to help it find a buyer as it emerges from bankruptcy.
But the filing has renewed debate about the challenges facing California visual effects studios and their employees.
The aerial protest has the support of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which led an unsuccessful effort last year to unionize visual effects workers at Sony Pictures Entertainment and other studios.
"We understand the plight of the visual effects artists and support any meaningful changes in the industry to bring about positive standards and workplace conditions that would benefit them," said Steve Kaplan, an organizer with the Animation Guild, which is part of IATSE.
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