Marvel's Poor Working Conditions Detailed By VFX Insider

A VFX artist has describes the difficult working conditions Marvel has reportedly been perpetuating in recent productions of its films. Marvel is perhaps the most powerful force within the film industry, due to its huge box office grosses and an ever-expanding lineup of television shows on Disney+. This track record of success gives the studio an overwhelming influence over the direction of industry practices. With even more additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe slate incoming, the demand from post-production houses has never been higher.

Recently, Marvel has come under intense scrutiny from fans over a decline in VFX quality. When images from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law were revealed, fans criticized her uncanny, computer-generated face and shoddy animations. Concerns began to grow among the fanbase that the studio is struggling to keep the level of quality in line with their theatrical releases. Marvel has also come under fire for its overreliance on green screens, leading to underdeveloped settings where characters appear pasted into the scene. Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi appeared in a Vanity Fair video where he mocked the inconsistency in his film's CGI work.


Related: Why Thor: Love & Thunder's CGI Looks So Bad

Now, an anonymous VFX artist has spoken with Vulture about their experience with Marvel's industry practices. The artist describes the tenuous relationship between the VFX houses and Marvel Studios, stating that there is an incentive to keep the studio happy at any cost. If an effects house underdelivers or denies a request, there is a serious threat of missing out on job opportunities going forward. When competing for Marvel jobs, effects houses are also far more likely to underbid, leading to staffing shortages. The artist claims that a typical VFX job requires a team of ten workers - with Marvel films, that same workload is handled by just two artists. As a result, understaffed and overworked artists must meet the continuous demands of the studio, often right up until a film's release.

Maybe a month or two before a movie comes out, Marvel will have us change the entire third act. It has really tight turnaround times. So yeah, it’s just not a great situation all around.

Some of the problems I mentioned are universal to every show and every project. But you end up doing less overtime on other shows. You end up being able to push back more on the directors. When they say something like, 'Hey, I want this,' you can be like, 'This doesn’t make sense.' Not every client has the bullying power of Marvel.

Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk talking to Hulk

Marvel has become infamous in the VFX industry for its numerous edits and sweeping last-minute changes. Often directors have little experience with VFX and will struggle with visual work-in-progress shots which leads to major edits right down to the wire. This pushes an already overworked team of artists to the breaking point: the anonymous source describes numerous instances of coworkers crying or having anxiety attacks. The artist also acknowledges that most of the time they are not working with a director of photography and must develop their own shots for a film's action sequences. This results in an inconsistent visual style compared to the rest of the film and battle scenes that are not grounded in a real space.

This VFX artist's account is just one in a series of allegations of the poor working conditions perpetuated by Marvel. There is a growing movement of VFX workers looking to unionize in order to improve the quality and pace of their workloads. The goal of the movement is to give artists more of a say in the bidding process and prevent effects houses from underbidding without considering the impact it would have on them. Workers also want to be able to push back on directors without fear of retaliation from the studio. This conflict will likely continue as Marvel announces plans for the next two phases in the cinematic universe.