Lately, I see a lot of green squares in place of people’s Facebook photos. This is meant in solidarity with Hollywood VFX house Rhythm & Hues, responsible for the look of such films as Snow White and the Huntsman and The Wolfman. The outfit has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and fired its 250+ employees. To add insult to injury, the producers of the Academy Awards gave them the shark music then cut off Bill Westenhofer’s mic as he was accepting the Oscar for Best Visual Effects on The Life of Pi.
“The most important person in the motion picture process is the writer, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from ever realizing it.”
–Irving Thalberg (kind of a big deal producer long, long ago)
The green Facebook profile-picture phenomenon has spread far and wide. A friend who has nothing to do with filmmaking recently asked me what was the deal. Why green? The idea is that when scenes with a lot of VFX are filmed, much of the background is Chromakey green, which can easily be keyed out of the footage and later replaced with the beautiful VFX work. So without VFX artists like those at Rhythm & Hues and other houses—all of which are troubled to some degree by the challenges of the current film industry—there would be no images, only the green background that the VFX artists paint upon.
I feel for the VFX artists. It’s true that they don’t get a lot of respect. The shark music only scratches the surface. One could easily argue that Rhythm & Hues also won the cinematography Oscar for Pi’s Claudio Miranda, because so much of the gorgeous imagery attributed to him was, in fact, created in the minds and computers of the VFX team. And while I’m not much of a fan for “Facebook Activism”—where clicking Like or changing your profile picture is equivalent to being Norma Ray—there is a certain truth here. A lot of films would look pretty lame without the VFX artists, and we should all acknowledge that.
Okay, did you acknowledge it?
Good. Because there is another group of filmmakers I’d like to offer props to: the screenwriters. Without screenwriters, movie screens wouldn’t even be GREEN. They’d be black because no one wrote “FADE IN:”
If you think that VFX artists are getting squeezed between studios and global economic forces, well, Baby, that ain’t nothin’ compared to screenwriters.
The stories, characters, events, memorable moments, quotable dialogue—everything you see on the screen, a screenwriter wrote. Yes, film is a collaborative medium and every member of the team—director, actors, producers, cinematographers, composers, designers, and so many more—play an irreplaceable role. But ALL of it starts with a screenwriter.
So I’m suggesting, if you want to show some solidarity to hard working creatives who help make the film business possible, then maybe we’ve gone green long enough to give the VFX guys their due. It’s time to go black for the type monkeys who think up so much of that great stuff that makes us love the movies more than we love sitting in theaters staring at black screens.
Come on now, don’t screenwriters deserve their own empty gesture?