Last month, Post teamed up with the Visual Effects Society to host a panel at the Createasphere conference in New York City. I served as moderator of the “Hot VFX NYC” session, which evolved into a discussion of the business of visual effects in the competitive New York market. The slate of panelists had no shortage of commentary over the hour-and-a-half session, which still managed to highlight much of their impressive work.
Panelists included: Dan Schrecker, VFX supervisor at Look Effects, which recently handled FX for Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman; Jim Rider, VFX supervisor at Gravity, who focuses specifically on film work; Keith McCabe, head of CG at Charlex, which cranks out tons of commercials for clients such as Verizon; Fred Ruckel, creative director of Stitch, who has worked on a Super Bowl spot for Pepsi, and is currently producing and posting his own cable show; The Mill’s Westley Sarokin, who handled effects for Budweiser’s Bridge Super Bowl spot, and more recently completed a piece for DirecTV; and Brainstorm Digital’s Richard Friedlander, who has a long history working with director Ron Howard, and whose studio is currently providing services for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
All of the panelists are located in New York and often compete directly with each other for jobs. This brought up the question of winning the bid: How does a studio get a job, with so much talent and competition out there?
All agreed that relationships help in securing work. In film, for example, a client may give a studio a few shots initially, and once they’ve gotten a feel for the facility’s work and ability to meet a deadline, they may give them more work for that film, or another, down the road.
Friedlander noted that his past relationships are what help his Brooklyn studio bring in film projects that may otherwise go to post houses on the West Coast. “Without them,” he says of the relationships, “it would be very difficult.”
Rates are another issue, and Ruckel said studios like his that do spot work need to be careful not to make low-ball bids just to get a job. The result could fill a show reel with loss leaders, and even put a studio out of business.