The VFX industry's issues with Marvel Studios came to light recently, and a new report revealed another potential setback for the studio.
As Marvel's content output grew in Phase 4, some VFX artists were reportedly unhappy. Former VFX artist Dhruv Govil previously explained why the studio is "horrible" to work for, noting that he has frequently seen colleagues struggle with being overworked "while Marvel tightens the purse strings."
Marvel's announcement of its Phase 5 and 6 slate also didn't help the issue, as an anonymous VFX artist revealed that "the whole industry seems a bit depressed" about it because of the "insane amount of work it’ll be."
However, a past report indicated that Marvel Studios appears to have realized the issue and has now begun to make an effort to lighten the load.
Despite that, a new issue has come to light.
Marvel Studios Allegedly Created VFX Industry Blacklist
As per a report from Vulture, Marvel Studios' staggering output in 2022 (four series, two stand-alone Disney+ specials, and three movies) reportedly allowed the studio to operate as the entertainment industry's biggest "bully," according to anonymous VFX workers.
A Georgia-based VFX worker then opened up about accusing Marvel of having an alleged blacklist, noting that "it's a common thing that comes up."
The worker also revealed that the biggest way to get on that blacklist is "to leave a show early for any reason:"
“The blacklist is very talked about. I don’t know anyone that’s seen it for real. But it’s a common thing that comes up whenever effects people talk together. ‘If you do X, Y, or Z, Marvel will blacklist you and you won’t be working for them again. The biggest way to get on the blacklist is to leave a show early for any reason.”
However, Joe Pavlo, a VFX artist who has helped organize VFX workers in the United Kingdom, denied the existence of any blacklist from Marvel:
“It has been my experience that the blacklists visual-effects artists fear so much are nothing more than myth.”
Pavlo also noted that studios couldn't afford to exclude workers when they have so much VFX work that needs to be finished.
Still, two other VFX workers with experience working on MCU projects revealed that the blacklist exists due to Marvel Studios President, physical and post-production, visual effects, and animation production Victoria Alonso.
A Vancouver-based tech, who vowed never to work for Marvel again, explained why Alonso is known in the industry as a "kingmaker:"
“The main one that everyone’s quite scared of is Victoria Alonso. She is known in the industry as a kingmaker. If she likes you, you are going to get work and move up in the industry. If you have pissed her off in any way, you’re going to get frozen out.”
A senior animator in Marvel Studios Animation, who Alonso also heads, shared that the "mini-studio" suffers under its impossible deadline structure:
“We’re in-house. We’re paid well. I do feel like we’re padded by money. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re asking for things that can’t be done.”
Marvel declined to comment on the animator's remarks, as per Vulture.
The outlet also noted that more than a dozen major VFX houses worldwide, which have worked on at least two Marvel movies, didn't respond to a request for comment on the studio's reputation among VFX workers.
However, a co-owner of a Europe-based visual effects studio agreed to speak anonymously.
The co-owner first denied the idea of blacklisting, sharing that Marvel provides "technical ingredients" such as texture photos and color references that other VFX houses fail to hand over.
The executive compared the studio's process of creating a film's ending to Pixar's protocol, where wholesale animation revisions are quite common at the latter stages of postproduction.
The European top brass continued by pointing out that if the VFX artist is not honest and transparent about his or her abilities, "they can probably blacklist you:"
“We turned down work on two of their movies last year, and still, we’re on the next two. If you’re not honest and transparent about your abilities, they can probably blacklist you. If you overestimate your own capacity and say, ‘Sure. Wire the money, and we’ll go to work,’ then you can’t get to work, that’s where there’s a problem.”
Will Marvel's Issues with VFX Artists Improve in Phase 5?
Given the conflicting statements of the various VFX artists in Vulture's report, it is hard to pinpoint which of them is true. Some would consider that the blacklist topic is purely workplace gossip that arose due to the complicated working conditions under Marvel.
Still, considering that two sources denied the existence of such a blacklist, there's a good chance it is true, especially after the European executive pointed out that not being honest and transparent about one's abilities will put those artists on such a list.
The question remains if VFX artists' issue with Marvel will continue in Phase 5 and beyond.
While there is already an effort to lighten the load, one potential solution to the debacle is an honest and open conversation between the VFX artists and Marvel's top brass to address the issue.
Hopefully, things will be better for the benefit of the audience.