Recent Oscar Winner for Best Director, Ang Lee, takes some heat from a couple of visual effects artists from Rhythm and Hues who claim the Life of Pi director fails to acknowledge the company’s hard work in helping bring the Oscar winning film to life in his acceptance speech on Sunday. Bruce Bannit of Rhythm and Hues took to Facebook to express his disappointment with the director as well as with Life of Pi’s cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who also won an Oscar for the film’s outstanding cinematography.
“Neither Ang nor his winning cinematographer, Claudio Miranda felt they needed to thank or even mention the VFX artists who made the sky, the ocean, the ship, the island, the meerkats and oh yeah … the tiger. Ang thanked the crew, the actors, his agent, his lawyer and the entire country of Taiwan right down to the team that built the wave-pool on the soundstage where ‘Pi’ was shot. But failed to mention hundreds of artists who made not only the main character of the tiger, but replaced that pool, making it look like a real ocean for 80 percent of his movie.”
Life of Pi is the third Academy Award-winning film to feature visual effects work by El Segundo-based Rhythm and Hues Studios. The company has provided Hollywood filmmakers with visual effects since 1987 and had more than 700 employees in Southern California. Two weeks ago, Rhythm and Hues filed for bankruptcy protection. More than 200 employees were laid off, many of whom worked for more than a year on Life of Pi.
Prior to filming Life of Pi, Ang Lee was met with some challenges in convincing Fox studio to let him film the movie in 3D. His hard work paid off when he managed to successfully secure a large budget (reportedly $120 million) for Life of Pi. Most of that money was used to hire the visual effects team at Rhythm and Hues. When pressed for comments after the Oscars about Rhythm and Hues’ financial troubles, Ang Lee said “I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business… it’s very hard for them to make money.The research and development is so expensive – that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive].” These comments did not settle well with visual effects artist Phillip Broste. He addressed the director’s comments in an open letter on Facebook and said,
“I just want to point out that while, yes R&D can be expensive and yes it takes a lot of technology and computing power to create films like yours, it is not computer chips and hard drives that are costing you so very much money. It is the artists that are helping you create your film.
“So when you say “I would like it to be cheaper,” as an artist I take that personally. It took hundreds of hours from skilled artists and hard-working coordinators and producers to craft the environments and performances in Life of Pi. Not to mention the engineers that wrote all of that proprietary code and build the R+H pipeline. That is where your money went. I’d say, judging from the night you just had, you got one hell of a deal.
“Mr. Lee, I do believe that you are a thoughtful and brilliant man. And a gifted filmmaker. But I also believe that you and everyone in your tier of our business is fabulously ignorant to the pain and turmoil you are putting artists through.”
Film School Rejects posted the open letter Broste has written to Lee in its entirety on its website.