Los Angeles is a Desert

Well, not entirely, but it's as bad as I have ever seen it. The United States was the birthing place of computer graphics. The Darpa Net, framebuffer from Utah, graphic rendering from Utah, so many developments it's impossible to list them all. Los Angeles as the place where a group of us geeks finally convinced (over a period of about twelve to fifteen years) Hollywood that we could use our technology to make movies. A former head of ILM once said at SIGGRAPH in a speech he gave about the business, "It was 1991, the year that "Beauty and the Beast" and "Terminator2" came out, and Hollywood finally said,"Ohhh! That's what you meant!"

By 1995, every major studio either had or was starting to hire hundreds of computer graphic artists (that mostly didn't exist, remember in 1991 there were only a few hundred of us world-wide). We were so scarce by 1996 and 1997 (the schools had not caught with or not gotten wind of the demand yet), that there were literally thousands of dollars available to artists just for signing a contract to work somewhere. Yes, for digital artists, that was a "fat" time, as in your wallet could get fat.

But, we as an industry had yet to learn (and we still haven't) the lessons of the Animation Industry (Also, by the way, Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley was the birthplace of American Animation, until it, too, was deported by first, William Hanna and Joe Barbara's company in the early 1960s). Since the 1960s, there has been an irrefutable belief by Hollywood Producers that in order to get more for your money (or spend less on your films), you just take the work overseas.

On the spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations, this looks true at first. But having started in production doing computer graphics in the Animation Industry in Los Angeles and having become fast friends with the world's historian of LA production, Tom Sito, in the late 1980s, I became VERY familiar with the failure of Business in America to keep their edge over foreign competitors. I was working at Filmation Studios (at that time, the last Animation Studio in America doing all of their production under one roof) when they were unexpectedly sold by Group W in the Fall of 1987. No, not to a competitor, but to be disassembled, selling all the pieces for as much cash as they could get. This was 18 months after Filmation had finished their run on 'He-Man, Masters of the Universe' and started a new series in the same line, called "BraveStarr." He-Man, the syndicated animation series for after school slots on televsion made over a BILLION dollars in on-air sales, commercial sales and ancillary market sales. It was documented in the LATimes during the Summer of 1987.

But Business through away the goose that laid the golden egg. Hanna-Barbara did the same thing in the 1960s, when the networks were pressuring them to lower the costs of the runaway hits, the prime-time shows of 'The Flintsones', and 'The Jetsons', both take-offs on Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners" a fine American show. The exported the painting and camera work to Japan, thereby creating jobs in Japan and laying off hundreds of artists devoted to the company in the San Fernando Valley. The Network got it's profits up. Bill and Joe made even more money, and the artists who created the show got laid off.

Business as usual, you say? So, you really feel that there should be an elite of the very rich in the United States? Because business as usual in the U.S. absolutely builds on this idea.

Think about it. The creatives create it. The businessmen profit from it, and deride the artists for being so stupid as to lose control. It's happening again, right in front of your eyes, with the computer graphics business and the visual effects business. Someday, it will be considered silly to make movies in Hollywood, if business has its way, and so far, nothing is stopping it from doing exactly that.


  1. Well, what do you expect? You do give away all your rights to your work.
    You sign a copyright release. If you want to change the situation, you
    need to fight the law which even allows
    this atrocity.


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