If the protests going on outside of last night’s Academy Awards didn’t have anything to do with “The Life of Pi” VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer getting the wrap it up music only seconds into his speech, then someone just has the worst timing. Whatever the case, it’s not a great look with Westenhofer’s studio, Rhythm & Hues struggling to stay afloat as members of the visual effect community amassed outside to protest the lack of equitable pay and recognition for their work in films.
“Sadly, Rhythm & Hues is suffering severe financial difficulties right now,” Westenhofer began before being unceremoniously played off the stage by John Williams’ “Jaws” theme, likely an attempt by Academy Awards producers to avoid any kind of Sacheen Littlefeather moment that might spoil the dignity of a show where the host opens with a song about actresses’ topless scenes in film.
Meanwhile, somewhere near 400 workers in the visual effects industry were protesting outside (with a few Rhythm & Hues employees past and present mixed in), in part as an effort to draw attention to the outsourcing of effects work to countries where it’s subsidized and in part to jumpstart a unionization effort (something this Deadline piece points out has limited support in the industry).
Rhythm & Hues is in a bad way, recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with many of their employees going unpaid for weeks. While much of the staff has been laid off, some are still sticking around to finish up work on the Jeff Bridges-starring “Seventh Son.” At the time of the filing, the R&H was also working on “Catching Fire,” and this summer’s “R.I.P.D.,” with a filmography that includes films as far-ranging as “Cabin in the Woods” and “Babe.”