With the FX colossus Gravity hoovering up BAFTAs last night, here's a timely reminder of the controversy simmering around visual effects at last year's Oscars. Long-estabished and much respected FX house Rhythm & Hues collected a statue for its astonishing work on Ang Lee's Life Of Pi, but it was small consolation for the company, which had been forced to file for bankruptcy just weeks before. Somehow some of its employees found time to document the collapse as it was happening, and the result is Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi, for which a trailer has just emerged.
"Here we are demonstrably doing the best work in the industry," says Digital Supervisor Michael Conelly, "and slamming into a wall. So the night of the Oscars... what a mess."
"It was like a perfect storm of crap happening," says R&H president Lee Berger, whose company was far from the only one feeling the squeeze of massive overwork and enormous underappreciation. For R&H there was the further indignity of having their Academy Award moment cut short by the Jaws theme, even as industry protests were happening outside.
But, says CG supervisor Walt Jones, their experience "gelled the entire VFX community into being horrifically pissed off at how they were being treated". You need only head to Empire's interview with industry legend Scott Squires for the full sordid details.
Life After Pi is actually a short film, making up a chapter of the forthcoming anthology Hollywood Ending. The bigger picture, we're told, "delves into the larger, complex challenges facing the US Film Industry and the many professionals working within it whose fates and livelihood are intertwined".
The Rhythm & Hues section, directed and edited by R&H Art Director Scott Leberecht, will be released in full online on February 25, less than a week before this year's Oscar ceremony on March 2.