Marvel’s business practices seem to have more in common with their villains than their heroes. An anonymous visual effects artist gave Vulture’s Chris Lee an idea of what it’s like working on an MCU project, and it isn’t pretty. The gentleman describes difficult working conditions such as “almost six months of overtime every day… seven days a week, averaging 64 hours a week on a good week,” with some of his co-workers crying and even “having anxiety attacks on the phone.” Moreover, they’re expected to come up with finished effects when Marvel and its directors don’t know what they want, meaning they’ve got to redo a complete job instead of collaborating and constructing the effects as they go along. Oddly, they still micromanage everything the effects artists do – something they refer to as “pixel-fucking.” Marvel also underpays the effects houses, he says, which leads to understaffing, making the working conditions worse. He also says that, while other studios do some of these things as well, Marvel is so big and powerful that there’s no way to push back against them or even tell them when something they say they want doesn’t work for their movie.
It’s tough not to feel for these guys. Marvel productions require a lot of special effects, meaning these would be tough jobs under the best conditions. But Marvel makes it even tougher, and they don’t seem to care because they don’t have to; they wield all the power – which is part of why one of the suggestions the anonymous artist offers is for them to unionize. (It’s hard to believe they don’t already have a union.) It seems visual effects workers have been saying this for a long time, and the video of Taika Waititi mocking their work brought the issue to the fore. This account is more detailed, and it paints an ugly picture – although even before they got into the movie business, Marvel treated its creatives with contempt. Some of what this man says also reinforces a few things we’ve all noticed with Marvel movies, like their slavish devotion to release dates and hiring directors who don’t know what they’re doing but don’t have the clout to demand a lot of money. This all comes down to penny-pinching; Marvel will save a buck any way they can, no matter what it does to their employees or even their movies. It explains those still-awful She-Hulk effects too.