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Director / CrewWe create VFX globally for movies and TV shows like El Chapo and Scandal. We are the VFX Legion. AMA!

Jun 22nd 2017 by VFXLegion • 7 Questions • 26 Points

On June 12, Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an extension and increase of their financial commitment in an effort to eradicate polio worldwide once and for all. Additionally, 16 governments and several organizations have just pledged $1.2B to eradicate polio. Rotary has already contributed over 1.6 billion U.S. dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer time to the eradication of polio. When we succeed in eradicating polio, it would become only the second disease to be eradicated by vaccines, the other being smallpox.

Personally, I have known Dr. Salk, creator of the inactivated polio vaccine, and Dr. Sabin, creator of the oral polio vaccine through my work at the National Institutes of Health. In 1979 the last case of endemic polio was reported in the U.S. I, along with Rotary International president, Clem Renouf, brought to Rotary the idea to make it our chief goal to eradicate polio worldwide. For the last 11 years, I have been carrying on the visions of Drs. Salk and Sabin as the vice-chairman of Rotary International’s PolioPlus program, which helps oversee Rotary’s polio vaccination efforts worldwide.

Context:

In 1916, polio was an epidemic in the United States with over 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Following the availability of Dr. Salk’s inactivated vaccine in 1955 and Dr. Sabin’s oral polio vaccine in 1962, polio began to decline in developed countries where they were used. That decline began to accelerate as groups such as Rotary International began to champion the issue in the early 1980s.

Today, polio is nearly eradicated globally, as we’ve seen a 99.9% reduction – from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 6 reported cases so far in 2017. Polio is virtually eradicated, but there is still so much more to do. If we don’t continue to vaccinate, we could see 200,000 new cases every year – giving polio an unprecedented resurgence.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/8b4euv7l1n4z.jpg

EDIT: Thanks very much for all of your questions today. I enjoyed the conversation. For more information, please visit:https://www.endpolio.org/

Q:

What are your thoughts on the VFX industry unionizing? Could/should it happen?

A:

Doctor, thank you very much for your tireless work.

As a fellow Rotarian, supporter of the Polio Plus program for over 10 years and someone who has contact with polio survivors through work and personal life, I have one question.

What would be the best way to communicate the importance of continued support for this program to younger generations that we interact with and recruit as Rotarians everyday?

While I am very excited by the support, I am concerned that with this influx of support from the Gates Foundation that some may think, "oh that should do it." When the truth is this is a long road we are going down.

I apologize for the run-on sentences.


Q:

Oh goodness. We're mostly in agreement that we would like it to happen, but we aren't sure it will. This industry has the same "quirks" as other tech industries in that it's cheap and relatively easy to outsource work. Any time unionization is attempted it's easy for the work to go somewhere else – globalization is one step ahead of unionization, so when you’re in a local bidding war, a studio can easily take its business elsewhere.

-Brenton (project manager and token IT guy)

A:

I remember vividly the fear of polio when I was young and when my own cousin developed paralytic polio and the great sadness in my family because of this.  I remember her need to have multiple surgeries and braces in order to walk.  But, in general, each summer the swimming pools would be closed and contact between children kept to a minimum because of the fear of polio.  And my father was a practicing physician and I remember going with him and seeing homes where there was a sign on the door: Quarantine and Keep Out Because of Polio.  Younger generations won’t remember this. This experience is a distant memory in the U.S. but is still very real for those living in polio-impacted countries.  I think that we need to communicate that struggle to younger generations.I think it is important to emphasize in meetings and literature the value of eradicating polio. We have almost reached the point of accomplishing the goal of eradication, but we need to push over the finish line to accomplish the goal.  In some regions, like Afghanistan and Nigeria, they’re still having experiences with paralytic polio, which the United States hasn’t since the 1980s.  That’s why it’s important to stay engaged with this effort across the world.


Q:

What are your thoughts on the VFX industry unionizing? Could/should it happen?

A:

Hello Dr. John Sever,

Thank you for your service. My questions are :

  1. There have been outbreaks of vaccine-associated polio in the past. How difficult was it to restore people's faith in the vaccines?

  2. Are there any goals for eliminating oral polio vaccine, and using only injectable polio vaccine?


Q:

James - Owner

I had a long talk with Steve Kaplan about unionizing. I'm all for it as a long time artist. The down side for the facility is that we would have to raise our prices by at least 15% to be able to accommodate the increased costs in our workforce.

That may not seem like a lot of money, but when all the work is going to the UK or NY or YVR, where productions are getting anywhere between 20% and 58% back on labor, it takes it in the wrong direction. Our overhead is fairly low, allowing us to remain competitive, however, adding 15% to our prices, would only lessen the ability to stay viable in the market.

Remember, there's always someone willing to work cheaper. It may not be better, and many times we've been called in to redo someone else's cheap work, but this is about the race to the bottom, and producers without proper experience will almost always choose price over quality, until it burns them.

A:

There have been outbreaks of vaccine associated polio, but they are extraordinarily rare - 1 in about 2.7 million doses of the vaccine administered. And these have been met with intensive immunization in the areas.  With that approach the outbreaks have been put under control.  There is an acceptance of the immunization program to proceed. In most areas of the world, parents are eager to protect their children from paralysis and there is strong acceptance of the vaccine.

Once the wild poliovirus has been shown to no longer be present, we anticipate we will transition to using only the injectable polio vaccine. But until that time, it is necessary to continue with intensive immunization with the oral polio vaccine. A combination of both vaccines (oral and injectable) is necessary to eradicate polio.  


Q:

The problem with an industry with on 6 real customers.

A:

Do asymptomatic carriers exist for polio and would we need to continue to inoculate even after zero cases? And for how long?


Q:

James - Owner

For the big stuff, yes. Tentpoles. However, there are many many many hundreds of producers and people needing VFX worldwide. We tend to call them 'real' customers. However, the Chinese are doing more and more work around the world. They are outside of any deals of the Majors. Lot's of smaller studios need work, and work outside of whatever distro deals they may have with the majors.

We used to do a lot of work for Blumhouse. They have a first look deal with Universal for distribution, but they call the shots. They decide who works on their movies.

We've done a few projects for Netflix, who are rapidly becoming just as large as any of the other main players.

A:

Most people infected with polio don’t exhibit symptoms. Only about 1 in 200 people infected with polio are paralyzed by the disease. We will need to continue inoculation for at least three years after we reach zero cases and the virus is eradicated – very likely for several years beyond that time. 


Q:

Good to know that there is room for growth.

A:

What got you interested in the eradication of polio?


Q:

Rommel again:

Personally, yes, I think it should. But will it? It's hard because of the global market of VFX and everyone undercutting everyone else.

A:

In 1979, polio was no longer active in the United States and a few other countries.  So, we knew that it could be controlled and eradicated.  But most countries in the world were not immunizing for polio.  So, it was important that immunization be taken to all of the children of the world.  And Rotary was interested in accepting this opportunity and helping to immunize the children of the world.  


Q:

what's the most bizarre use of VFX you've been asked to work on?

A:

Dr. Sever, early in your career you worked with Jonas Salk. How did that shape your thinking about polio, your career and your life?


Q:

We looked into doing CG vomit in zero gravity. - Rommel (CG Lead)

A:

I was at the National Institutes of Health doing research in infections in children and pregnant women and prevention of these infections.  I knew Doctors Salk and Sabin because of their work on polio vaccine.  Both doctors visited my office at NIH and discussed immunization.  Dr. Sabin was particularly interested in mass immunization to eradicate polio.  And we discussed this frequently.  With Rotary, I saw the opportunity to take this approach to the international level and to eradicate polio throughout the world.  I invited Dr. Sabin to join me in meetings with Rotary on this topic.  Rotary accepted the eradication of polio as their main program of international service.  


Q:

what's the most bizarre use of VFX you've been asked to work on?

A:

Hey Doc, what can people without that kind of money do to help and what's in your cross-hair after Polio ?


Q:

Matt - VFX Supe. I once have to paint out a donkey's genitalia. That was fun. :)

A:

Rotary is working actively to raise $50 million dollars per year for the next three years.  Even small donations will help to reach that goal.  People can also help raise awareness of the problem within their personal networks.  Consider contacting your local Rotary club to get involved as a volunteer. We are dedicated to completing the eradication of polio before moving on to other projects.  


Q:

that's pretty nuts

A:

Thank you so much for your service, and doing this AMA. Apologies in advance if any one of them is inappropriate, but I've got three questions for you:

  1. Many people from a select few third world countries are violently opposed to getting their children vaccinated against polio. This opposition is primarily based on different conspiracy theories. A simple discussion with them isn't enough. They refuse to even consider. How can we overcome this, given that they are a hurdle in eradicating polio globally?

  2. The rivalry between Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin is quite famous. Was Dr. Salk ever bitter that Dr. Sabin had violently opposed him?

  3. Whom did you spend more time with? Dr. Salk or Dr. Sabin?


Q:

Hahahaha I see what you did there....

--Rommel

A:

Rotary has thousands of members in places like Pakistan. Since they are friends, neighbors and leaders in local communities, they are trusted community voices. Parents trust these members when they talk about the safety and importance of the vaccine. Rotary and its partners also work closely with other trusted community voices. For example, Rotary hosts regular workshops for Ulemas (religious leaders) to educate them on the importance of the vaccine. They then become advocates who go back to their communities and talk about why the polio vaccine is important. Overall, trust and demand for the vaccine in other parts of the world is high. 

Both Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin were brilliant and highly committed to vaccines for polio.  The inactivated vaccine was used in the U.S. from 1955.  We switched to the live vaccine in 1962.  Today we are using both vaccines together toward the eradication of polio.  Both Drs. Salk and Sabin met with me in my office at NIH and Dr. Sabin moved to NIH in his retirement.  So I saw him very frequently and we worked together on the polio eradication program as well as on developing a new aerosolized measles vaccine.  


Q:

that's pretty nuts

A:

I designed, modeled, textured, and rigged the attack helicopter for The Purge: Election Year. That was a fun one for me. Usually when I get the chance to design and build an asset, from brain to screen, that becomes a favorite thing.

  • Rommel (CG Lead)

Q:

Hi there guys, love your work! I'm a remote generalist artist from Australia, how would one go about getting work with you guys and what do you look for in applicants?

A:

Send your reel and resume to jobs [at] vfxlegion [dot] com


Q:

Hi there guys, love your work! I'm a remote generalist artist from Australia, how would one go about getting work with you guys and what do you look for in applicants?

A:

Matt - VFX Supe. It's understandable that a shop would want to offer all of these services in-house. Simply cutting down on communication alone, streamlining all of the steps involved in vfx, can save a lot of time and money for a production. Also, several of these tasks often fall within an overlap of talent, and keeping people working sometimes means having them wear multiple hats. Operating costs can also be shared and spread across the various services, making it more affordable for each department to run. That said, there will always be niche companies out there that specialize in the extremely difficult areas of vfx like character animation, fx simulations, etc, and I don't think that changes.


Q:

What challenges are you encountering as a centralized shop with remote workers, as opposed to having a physical studio in LA or Vancouver? How are you overcoming those challenges?

A:

James - Owner

There are some challenges, but many of them are the same as being in a facility. If people don't talk and ask questions, then 1 room for 7,000 miles won't make any difference at the end of the day. We have expanded our space so that we can take on higher security work that is all local. The goal was to have a hit squad? Strike team? Local... uh... task force? To handle the kind of work that can't go out, regardless of how secure our system is.

This opens up the door to shows that we normally wouldn't be able to work on, but also gives LA local clients a chance to come in and point at screens. People LOVE pointing at screens.


Q:

What challenges are you encountering as a centralized shop with remote workers, as opposed to having a physical studio in LA or Vancouver? How are you overcoming those challenges?

A:

On the client-facing side, sometimes it's hard for potential clients to understand the model at first. When they come in for a face-to-face meeting and see an office of only ~10 people they can get cold feet. It just takes a bit more explaining, but they're usually on board as long as the work looks good and is delivered on-time!

-Brenton


Q:

What challenges are you encountering as a centralized shop with remote workers, as opposed to having a physical studio in LA or Vancouver? How are you overcoming those challenges?

A:

Which is actually something I harp on when we bring on new 3D artists.

--Rommel


Q:

Is it your fault that the purge election year is actually happening?

A:

Sorry.

--Rommel


Q:

Is it your fault that the purge election year is actually happening?

A:

Matt - VFX Supe. A remote approach to vfx solves several problems that our industry, and artists, face every day. At Legion we source from vetted artists all over the world to custom fit the right talent to each job. We are able to provide senior level work without a lot of the overhead required to operate a large brick and mortar shop.

Also, due to the unfortunate tax credit situation and the globalization of our industry, artists are often forced to chase the work and leave their homes and family, or settle for lower rates. Our remote model allows them to live where the want, and work on their own terms, yet still contributing to high level vfx on interesting and challenging projects.

Broadband internet speeds, and increasingly faster workstations at lower costs have really allowed this remote workflow to thrive in recent years. 5 or 10 years ago this simply would not have been possible.


Q:

What are you looking for when hiring a FX artist? thank you

A:

Matt - VFX Supe. As a mostly remote pipeline, all of our artists first and foremost must be self-motivated, independent, and have the ability to supervise their own work. We generally work with senior artists who already know the ins and outs of their tasks and have the ability to do basic qc on their work before submitting it for review. There are costly delays involved with silly mistakes, especially with the large files we send back and forth. We also need artists who can speak up about their daily challenges and who can look ahead and see possible snags in the work, relaying this info to the team. As our management team isn't hovering over them it's essential that we can trust our artists to delivery quality work, efficiently. That may sound like a lot to ask for, but the trade off is pretty good in my opinion, artists get paid competitive rates yet they can work from home, pick up their kids after school, and sleep in their own bed at night.


Q:

Thanks for the reply, another question, have you seen my reel? I want to work with you guys, thanks :)

A:

Send your reel and resume to jobs [at] vfxlegion [dot] com and we'd be happy to take a look!


Q:

Thanks for the reply, another question, have you seen my reel? I want to work with you guys, thanks :)

A:

Being able to work without someone looking over your shoulder is a big thing. Being independent and able to think things through on your own is integral.

--Rommel (CG Lead)


Q:

I love watching VFX reels, because I enjoy seeing how things were done behind the scenes. Is there a forum or trade magazine where people show off the before/after/how?

Do you have to get your clients permission to show this stuff off, or is it just standard in every contract?

A:

For artists, the usual rule is that if it's a feature, it has to be out on DVD (or streaming now, I guess). And for TV, it has to have already aired.

--Rommel (CG Lead)


Q:

I love watching VFX reels, because I enjoy seeing how things were done behind the scenes. Is there a forum or trade magazine where people show off the before/after/how?

Do you have to get your clients permission to show this stuff off, or is it just standard in every contract?

A:

(Joe, marketing boy here)

Me too! I wish I had the talent to create like the other guys. I'm constantly blown away by what they do. There's a lot of good stuff on http://www.artofvfx.com. Also /r/vfx! Lots of artists there and many breakdown reels shared. CGBros YouTube channel is good too.

We'll always seek client permission to share behind the scenes work, and as far as I know it's more of a privilege than a right; we have to ask for permission case-by-case. Artists have been fighting a long time to be recognized for their work and still sometimes don't get credited for it at all. Things are better these days but there's still a way to go.


Q:

How did you guys get in touch with the huge networks? Did you write them your idea directly, did you have interesting productions that caught their attention or did you know someone? What was the process?

A:

We reach out to post supervisors, associate producers, and the likes. It comes from years of working in the industry. We also keep an updated demo reel on our website so that new people can see the kind of work we do. Hopefully they would then reach out to get a bid.