Marvel has been under quite a bit of scrutiny for their treatment of visual effects artists recently. More and more members of previous Marvel Studios crews continue to speak out against the harsh working conditions, saying, ‘I’ve had co-workers sit next to me, break down, and start crying. I’ve had people having anxiety attacks on the phone.’
The MCU just received another complaint, this time from Guardians of the Galaxy VFX artist and Emmy Award winner Joe Pavlo, according to reports from The Guardian. The GOTG movie was applauded for its fantastic visuals when the film was released in 2014. But, of course, nearly every scene in the film was shot with a green screen, relying on the VFX artist to meticulously craft the settings and backdrop for the film.
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This is how most of the MCU movies are shot. They depend highly on VFX work, containing otherworldly planets, aliens, superpowers, and fully CG characters. Marvel Studios releases content rapidly, meaning their workers are constantly on the clock, forced to churn out the best work they can while under strict deadlines. Every visual effect studio wants to work on projects as big as the Avengers, however, small mistakes will cause Marvel and Disney to blacklist the VFX companies without a second thought. Pavlo explains the struggle of working with Marvel:
“The visual effects industry is filled with terrific people with lots of goodwill who really care but, at the end of the day, there’s nothing in place when their backs are up against the wall and Disney is making crazy demands. All the goodwill in the world just evaporates when everything gets changed and they decide they’re replacing that character with a different actor or changing the entire environment. They’re now in a pizza restaurant instead of a cornfield. It can be that extreme at the very last minute.”
Unfortunately, the tight turnarounds are all too common for an MCU project, leading to some of the poor visual effects we’ve seen over the years.
Pavlo Details The Bullying Culture That Takes Place at Marvel
Pavlo admits to The Guardian that Disney doesn’t grab someone and start ‘swearing at them or something like that.’ But the bullying relationship occurs through multiple levels of management in a particular hierarchy. The Emmy Award winner reveals, ‘the average artist doesn’t even have any contact with the clients.’ yet, the bullying persists.
“It can be characterized as bullying but filtered through multiple layers of management and supervisor and hierarchy. It’s not like the executive from Disney is grabbing someone and swearing at them or something like that. It’s more like an atmosphere where everybody feels like this is the most desperately important thing and, if we don’t do it, we’re all f****d. The average artist doesn’t even have any contact with the clients. It’s really just the people at the producer and the supervisor level and then they pass it on to their crew. So, you could say, oh, the supervisor’s a real bully, but actually it’s a knock-on effect and then the people who are the team leaders, once they can’t handle it, end up being bullies.”
Regardless of which chain of command the orders are passed down on, Marvel will need to change their strategy when working with VFX artists in the future. It’s now been made very public just how toxic the work conditions are, and Disney will want to avoid any broad scrutiny regarding their most beloved franchise.