Technology is the biggest driver in all industry, and in 2020 we saw how the COVID-19 pandemic made us rethink how we use technology in VFX. This was particularly apparent in the rapid pivot to remote workflows as a necessity during lock-down for business continuity.
Where stringent security requirements had been a barrier previously, the relaxation of some of these rules has allowed VFX companies to provide more flexibility to their workers while continuing to deliver great work. This will likely continue into 2021, and as VFX vendors, we need to work with major studios to ensure that while security remains paramount, we are able to maintain this much-needed flexibility. A wonderful side effect is a more stable work-life integration, which will likely see more parents (particularly women) continue in VFX careers for longer.
2021 will also be a year of how we access and manage the global talent network. Physical distance is no longer an impediment to hiring someone, so VFX vendors will need to assess how to manage people in a global context; teams that don’t necessarily reside in the same city, or even country. This not only includes daily interactions and production workflows, but also how to deal with longer-term career management, work health and safety, as well as address the very real mental health concerns that many of us face — some as a result of prolonged isolation.
VFX is a mature industry and it is evolving into a new phase. Larger conglomerates are amalgamating to become super entities, while others are becoming leaner, more agile and more disseminated, whose nimbleness can provide cost efficiencies. Barriers to entry are becoming less due to the remote working transformation and the global workforce. Embracing advances in technology will be a key driver to success. The uptick in virtual production will continue and the likely confluence of gaming and filmmaking.
Most importantly, culture remains the single most distinctive piece of the VFX puzzle. My heart goes out to anyone that lost their job, lost someone that they loved, or was in lock-down for the greater good. 2021 needs to be a year that we say there is no “us” or “them”. We are one — one driving force, coming together to change industry culture from the top down and the bottom up. We are collaborative, making great things to inspire people. We are human and we need open and honest communication all around in order to change the industry and make it a better place for all.
Jennie Zeiher is Head of Business Development at Rising Sun Pictures (https://rsp.com.au) in Adelaide, Australia.