OSCARS: ‘Life Of Pi’ VFX Winner Played Off While Thanking Bankrupt Rhythm & Hues

Oscars Ang LeeUPDATE, 9:50 PM: After winning the Oscar for Best Director, Ang Lee addressed the financial woes that struck his Life Of Pi VFX collaborators at Rhythm & Hues. “It’s bad news that visual effects are too expensive and I’m aware of Rhythm & Hues’ (situation)”, he said, noting that VFX artists are “more than just technicians”.

PREVIOUSLY, 9:13 PM: The Jaws theme struck less than a minute into VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer’s Life Of Pi Oscar acceptance speech. The ominous play-off tune played for a full 20 seconds as Westenhofer thanked director Ang Lee and began addressing the crisis plaguing the VFX industry. Poor Westenhofer was just starting to acknowledge the recently bankrupted Rhythm & Hues VFX studio, whose employees staged a protest at Hollywood and Vine earlier in the day that gathered over 400 marchers. “Sadly, Rhythm & Hues is suffering severe financial difficulties right now”, he managed to spit out before becoming the first winner of the 85th Academy Awards interrupted by play-off music. (Meanwhile, Best Documentary Oscar winner Malik Bendjelloul got the Jaws hook, too.)

RELATED: VFX Oscar Protesters Grow To 400 As Pros Plead Their Case

Backstage in the winners’ room, Westenhofer got to finish. “What I was trying to say up there”, Westenhofer began, “is that it’s ironic that when visual effects are dominating the box office, visual effects are struggling… we’re artists, and if we don’t fix the business model we may lose something”. Earlier in the day hundreds of VFX professionals including current and former employees of Rhythm & Hues staged a mass protest blocks away from the Dolby Theatre. They wielded homemade signs and chanted slogans hoping to bring Oscar night attention to the plight of the workers who, after contributing to Life Of Pi‘s Oscar-winning effects, were laid off en masse last month before the company filed for Chapter 11. A banner reading “BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM” flew in the skies over the Oscars red carpet prior to the telecast.

Watch Westenhofer’s interrupted Oscars acceptance speech:

Comments (48)

  • Terrible and rude when they cut short a person’s moment but they’ll have endless, unfunny drivel and lame musical numbers clogging up the works.

    Comment by moe — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:17pm PST  
    • moe, totally agree with your point…the craftsmen are secondary. I would add that, without the efx work/ shots in Pi. It’s a pointless attempt at storytelling. The first and third acts are gawd awful, on the nose ‘let us tell you, literally , in ‘on the nose’ nausiating detail what this movies about, ’cause we don’t know squat about structure or real character developement… wherin the story would unfold naturally. What happened to the Hyena and the Orangutan? Meaningless, moving props. How did the hero (quote unquote) actually make a ‘please leave the skin on my bones’ pact with the tiger.
      I love well crafted and properly placed efx, and I respect the craftsmen who build them, but they must be integral to the primary focus of a well told story. So much for my morning rant.

      Comment by Joe Griffith — Monday February 25, 2013 @ 7:27am PST  
  • Westenhofer went on thanking HIS family and those HE cared about while the other three sat back and watched and we’re supposed to be shocked Rhythm & Hues got the same treatment?

    Comment by Devil's Advocate — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:27pm PST  
  • And other people got to talk for way longer. Some real “let them eat cake” type-shit going on

    Comment by fluffo — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:33pm PST  
  • So fucking rude to cut off an Oscar winner during their acceptance speech… especially when it hasn’t gone very long.

    Comment by A viewer — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:47pm PST  
  • Could’ve been such a great statement on behalf of Rhythm and Hues and its laid-off workers… the effects house could really use the support

    Comment by matt — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:53pm PST  
  • How rude. And ironic.

    Comment by pixelmixer — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:57pm PST  
  • True! Winning an Oscar is a once in a lifetime thing, Westenhofer talked and talked and thanked and thanked those close to him, but I was screaming “Give the other three a chance to speeeak!!!!”

    Comment by Mr. Yes — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 10:06pm PST  
  • How awesome and ironic that these poor union workers were played off by the union musicians of Local 47 (AFM). Nice solidarity

    Comment by dave — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 10:49pm PST  
  • When there are multiple people your group is supposed to appoint 1 person to speak. Exception is best picture producers.

    Comment by Scott Squires — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 10:57pm PST  
  • Too expensive???? Ang Lee is a buffoon! The vfx houses are under bidding as it is! Compared to how much a movie like Pi makes, vfx budget is a drop in the ocean.

    Comment by Nick — Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 11:01pm PST  
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