Visual effects workers were left angry after watching Bill Westenhofer's speech getting cut short at the 85th Academy Awards last Sunday, February 24. Westenhofer and his team, who won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for their work in Ang Lee's "Life of Pi", were delivering their speech when an ominous music of "Jaws" was suddenly played mid-sentence.
Westenhofer had actually intended to address the plight of his industry. The El Segundo visual effects company had filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors and laid off around 250 workers from its Los Angeles operation. However, before Westenhofer had a time to talk about it, his speech was abruptly cut off after he used his allotted time during the ceremony.
That incident apparently caused outrage among visual effects workers, who launched protest near the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars was held to highlight the struggles of their industry. As quoted by L.A. Times, David Rand, a senior visual effects artist at Rhythm & Hues said, "People were outraged and angry."
"They played the theme song to 'Jaws' and cut him off. It wasn't funny to us," Rand continued. Digital Domain's founder, Scott Ross, added, "People are really upset... It's just another indication of how the film industry thinks about VFX!"
Following the Oscars cermony, Westenhofer told reporters about what he actually wanted to say in his speech. "What I was trying to say up there is that at a time when visual effects movies are dominating the box office, visual effects companies are struggling," he explained.
"And I wanted to point out that we aren't technicians. Visual effects is not just a commodity that's being done by people pushing buttons. We're artists, and if we don't find a way to fix the business model, we start to lose the artistry. If anything, 'Life of Pi' shows that we're artists and not just technicians."
In addition to Best Visual Effects, "Life of Pi" took home three other Oscars on Sunday's Academy Awards. It bagged Best Director gong for Ang Lee, Best Cinematography prize and Best Original Score award.