Documentary: Rhythm and Hues: Life After Pi

I have written before about how the visual special effects (VFX) industry in the US is in a sorry state. Even as so many major American films based their success on special effects and had spectacular box office returns, the industry that was so essential to their success was itself collapsing.

Nowhere was this ironic juxtaposition more apparent than during the 2013 Academy Awards show when the film Life of Pi was garnering the Oscar for special effects for the company at the same time that the company that created them Rhythm and Hues was filing for bankruptcy and its members were demonstrating in front of the building where the awards show was going on.

A reader who works in the industry sent me links to articles that describe the complicated system of subsidies and tax breaks that has created this messy state of affairs where the VFX companies chase after subsidies.

He also sent me a link to a trailer for a short documentary about the situation produced by the people who work at Rhythm and Hues even as the company was folding. It will be released on February 25, 2014. In it you will see how what is essentially a stuffed toy gets transformed into the ‘tiger’ that was seen in the film Life of Pi. The ability of people to do such things impresses me no end. Even the people who actually do it seem almost as incredulous as I am about what they can now do.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. kyoseki says

    This is an excellent rundown of the subsidy crap that’s killing jobs here:

    The basic problem is that various other states & territories, for whatever reason, have decided to try to buy California’s movie business.

    California is fighting foreign subsidies of anywhere from 20 to 50% on movie and visual effects work, these subsidies are usually referred to as “tax credits” to make people think it’s just a reduction in payable taxes, when in truth they’re actually cash handouts directly to the movie studios as a reward for doing the work in the relevant territory.

    Of course, the right wing is using it as an excuse to wag fingers at Unions and California’s corporate income tax rate, as though a 5% drop in taxes on marginal profits (seriously, can anyone here prove that a single Hollywood movie ever turned a profit) can offset a 40% subsidy.

    I have no doubt that if this subsidy passes, the MPAA will start their usual trick of telling everyone else they need to increase their subsidies again in order to “remain competitive”.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  2. EdW says

    Thanks for writing about this again, Mano.

    And a hearty hello out there to my fellow freethinking VFX artists!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *