Sunday, May 26, 2013

Framestore opens up in Montreal - and more VFX jobs leave London

The growing and rather depressing trend for jobs to leave London's Soho and head for Canada seems to be picking up pace. Framestore, one of London's leading visual effects houses and the studio which, more than any other, helped to make London a global centre for VFX work, has opened up a new operation in Montreal - no doubt chasing generous Canadian tax credits.

A look at the jobs page at the Framestore website makes for gloomy reading - jobs galore in Montreal, for animators, modellers, matchmovers, TDs - in short all the production folks that make up a 3D pipeline. In London, just a handful, some runners, a receptionist - and a pipeline head.

Canada is of course not just a destination for VFX work because of tax credits - they have a highly skilled and educated workforce, and many excellent digital houses like Digital Dimension and Hybride - the latter of which has the added advantage of being a short drive from a ski resort, no small temptation for visiting clients.

And Montreal is a lovely place - arguably the most interesting city in Canada, an unusual blend of Gallic and Anglo culture with plenty of urban charm and excellent restaurants. The winters are just as fierce as in Toronto, but don't forget those ski slopes within easy driving distance.

But the business of chasing producer tax credits distorts the visual effects market and means that jobs tend to follow whichever country offers the biggest bribes. Right now, that country is Canada, offering up to 40% of the cost of the production, with other even greater incentives if you go to less-visited Provinces like Manitoba. UK tax credits are around 20%, a big bribe, but not as big as Canada's bribe.

Maybe the solution is to have no bribes at all. Get rid of the tax credits, and simply let the work go to the best studios which offer the best work at the most competitive rates, wherever they are located.


(Editor's note: For more on the recent trials of the visual effects business, read about the recent layoffs at Cinesite, why we went green, read FLIP's review of Life of Pi, and read about the wonderful VFX studio that was Rhythm and Hues.  You can also find our September 2012 piece on the sad end of Digital Domain.)

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