Saturday, April 28, 2007

Imageworks toying with moving?

First off, everyone here knows about Sony flirting with the idea of opening shop in New Mexico. The tax incentives make it attractive to the company and since the studio seems to be hemorrhaging money they are thinking of possible solutions. Some of the comments in my last post seem to suggest "if you build it, they will come". Seriously though, does that always work? If Sony opens a studio in NM, will many people really pack up their lives and move to a one pony town? I realize the cost of living is lower there (and you can be assured your income will drop too), but is it worth the gamble? If Sony goes through with it, I guess we will find out.

The above isn't really news. Now that I think about it, neither is this. However, I've heard that Sony is also flirting with a satellite NorCal studio. I'm not sure what they would do there, maybe just a way to steal talent local to the area. This btw, is unrelated to another move to the San Francisco area - the Zemeckis thing.

Meanwhile, back in Culver City, I've been told that they are down to a pretty small crew working on a couple of shows. If you believe the people I talked to, they don't have much lined up right now. Surf's Up is done, their next SPA film is a ways off and they don't have many pure Imageworks fx jobs.

I don't know what any of this means or how true any of it is. Perhaps I am just spreading rumors. Whatever the case, I'd like to see Imageworks and SPA succeed. I enjoyed Open Season and Surf's Up looks pretty good too.


Anonymous said...

What Sony is trying to do in New Mexico has nothing to do with it's employees in Culver City. They are smart enough to know that people aren't going to pack their bags and move to a one pony town for less money, no matter what the benefits are. They are smart enough to know that if there is any success to be found in NM, it could mean that they are able to trim off more of the fat.

NM will be a grindhouse of entry level talent, and while Sony might lure some of their higher level employees by increasing their pay and offering them great relocation, that's still going to be a hard sell. Are you aware of Sony's IPAX program? They partnered with University of New Mexico recently, to establish a relationship and start putting together a program that will churn out higher quality entry level workers.

Imageworks is already in NorCal, whether you know it or not, and they plan to continue to be. More than anything, it's been a test of how well a remote facility would interface with folks in Culver City. It's working, quite well actually, and it's a sign that in person communication is rarely needed in this day and age when you have every other form of communication at your disposal.

Imageworks is also in India, as you know, and they are doing quite well there too, though the quality of work coming from India continues to be inconsistent.

SPA has two projects that are gearing up. Surf's Up will be big, it's going to do well. Open Season made 200 mil worldwide, and they're on track to produce several more films.

Zemeckis projects are over after Beowulf delivers, but that doesn't mean the end of mocap for Sony. They have other plans lined up.

As far as FX work goes, you'd be suprised how much work they don't get despite their high quality. They cost too much, are bloated, and have a huge amount of people on overhead right now. The executives alone make up for more than 40% of the cost in their bid packages.

Columbia Pictures will continue Spiderman with 4,5 and 6, and you can be assured that SPI will be providing the FX.

I don't think Sony's going anywhere, but they grew too fast and are having to compromise resources right now. Financially they are fine in the grand scheme of things as Sony Pictures continues to perform well for the parent company (Sony Corp), and that makes every division of Sony Pictures basically untouchable. Except for SPA, if they have a flop then that might be it, but Surf's Up will do well, it's tracking well, and people are going to see it and like it.

How do I know all of this? How do you think?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's some serious inside info! Staloren, do you think that this new studio will offer people at Sony a place to go? It sounds like Sony needs to be revamped or something, what do you think about it?

Staloren said...

Anonymous #2,

Sounds like anonymous #1 knows far more about what is going on than I do. My knowledge of Imageworks and SPA is pretty limited. Most of the people have been fired that I heard any real info from.

Anonymous #1,

Thanks for the post. I've heard lots of mixed stuff from those that have worked there. Hard to sort out what is what. One thing that has been consistent, is Imageworks having trouble getting projects because of overhead expenses. These larger companies often become bloated and price themselves out of the market.

Anonymous said...

Right now the NoCal branch of Imageworks just has a few shader writers as thats it -- whether it grows from there who knows.

With regards to moving to a studio in parts unknown I would say no. Moving to a city that has only one studio to me is foolish. What happens if your laid off or if the studio closes -- you'll have to move.

Right Albuquerque is not capable to support those of us in Animation and VFX.

I was offered an opportunity to go up to Laika in Portland. I turned it down because it is the only studio there. This business is way too volatile and unstable to move to a city with only one studio.

At least in LA or the Bay area there are many options. Even Vancouver would be ok to go.

Anonymous said...

People are in LA and the Bay Area because that's where the studios thrive. If one studio is struggling there is always another one flourishing right down the street. LA and the Bay Area have their faults, and they're not cheap, but they are established.

Moving to New Mexico would be a bad move for Sony employees. If I worked there I would be worried about layoffs. With the company making an obvious effort to outsource work, you have to wonder how closely they're examining everyone at home under the microscope. If people think they're going to get offered a great deal to move, they better think twice. Chances are those entry level employees in New Mexico mean pink slips for those in LA.

Studios change, the people at them don't. If it wasn't Sony it'd be somewhere else. We all know how it goes in this business, and that's why we stick together in this town.

Maybe Sony should layoff some of those executives who make up 40% of their bids. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Or maybe they should just fire Robin Linn! ;P

Tim S. said...

Stan, is that you up above me?

Yair L. said...

you are both fired.

Howard S. said...

That's it, I've had it with all of you, I quit!