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Pressure on VFX firms to locate in tax havens

Ant-ManVisual effects firms are under continuing pressure from production companies and studios to locate in parts of the world that offer the best tax credits, according to a panel discussion at last week’s Media Production Show in London.

The session was organised in association with Creative Skillset and featured Rob Harvey of Lola Post Production, Priyanka Balasubramanian of CherryCherry VFX, and Eamonn Butler of Cinesite.

“Clients are squeezing VFX companies to locate in tax havens,” said Butler, director of animation for Cinesite, which has bases in London, Montreal and Vancouver and has worked on movies such as Marvel's Ant-Man (pictured). “The studios get the tax breaks and the VFX companies get the work.”

The speakers explained that visual effects are getting cheaper and a knock-on effect is that employment opportunities get slimmer because companies more often need experienced individuals who can work with compressed schedules. 

Having a “generalist” skillset was recommended as the best way to sustain a career in visual effects, along with the ability and willingness to move between different international hubs.

“The visual effects industry tends to attract people whose work is their life,” Butler said. “I recommend having other things in your life too or your passion can burn out.”

Many of the challenges of the visual effects industry arise from working out precisely what the best approach is to getting a job done. Studio executives will often make their own initial suggestions about what they think a specific TV or film sequence needs, before consulting with several different visual effects firms that offer their own expert viewpoints and a prospective schedule.  

Cinesite screened a short fight scene from Ant-Man that needed six weeks of visual effects work.

The panel took questions on how the UK’s exit from the European Union could impact the visual effects industry, but no-one could offer easy answers.

“Brexit could make it harder for UK companies to hire internationally,” said Harvey. “On the other hand, it might make it easier for people in the UK to get hired.”

Image: Marvel Studios/Disney Enterprises



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