Interview: Prime Focus' Tim Keene on how the VFX industry can return to success

Prime Focus created the VFX for last year's action film Dredd 3D.

Prime Focus' head of VFX production tell us how the industry can avoid the financial woes that pushed Rhythm & Hues into needing bankruptcy protection.

Turbulent times in the VFX industry look like that they won't be abating any time soon, with the LA Times reporting only yesterday that another potential buyer for the near-bankrupt VFX Oscar-winning Rhythm & Hues has pulled out.

We've been asking London-based VFX houses about how they envisage the industry returning to financial security, but most declined to speak publicly. This is possibly because one of the key reasons why US-based companies are seen to be struggling is because of the relative strength of houses in London and Vancouver (where some British houses have sister studios)  – where the industries are heavily backed with tax breaks. However, wherever they are in the world, VFX houses are finding it difficult for a number of reasons, including a drop of production and budgets in Hollywood films on the back of a global recession.

One house that was happy to talk was Prime Focus World, whose presence in London is a single part of a global organisation headquartered in Los Angeles that was recently valued at over $250 million. Prime Focus was born in India, and moved in the UK by acquiring companies such as the VTR Group and Clear. Its US presence was created by acquiring Frantic Films and Post Logic.

We spoke to Tim Keene, head of VFX production in London for Prime Focus World to get his take on what's happening in the industry – and how it will go in the future.

DA:  How would you describe the current financial climate for London's VFX industry?

TK: "The financial climate is challenging organisations of all sizes.  At Prime Focus World, we focus on orchestrating and utilising our global resources – be they in LA, Vancouver, New York, London or Mumbai – to remain successful."

DA:  In the context of those worldwide issues, has being part of a worldwide group been helpful for Prime Focus's London studio?

TK: "Absolutely. Prime Focus World doesn’t consider itself a 'London' studio - we’re a global studio; a globally united team of artists, technicians and producers all working towards the same goal.  We place great emphasis on the importance of the extended support and sustainability that comes from being a participant in a global team.

"We [use] practices that encourage artists, technicians and management to collectively approach challenges and share solutions."

DA: How can London's firms ensure offering an attractive package to film companies in the future?

TK: "It is our belief that in order to remain viable at a certain level, VFX companies need to look beyond their own backyard – and many of the biggest firms are already doing this. Its not about chasing local tax benefits – it requires analysis of how the efficiencies of being part of a global group can be harnessed to produce top quality work whilst providing clients with the best possible deals: efficiencies that are realised by having a network of complementary facilities working together. Of course, the challenge is in creating and efficiently running this global infrastructure…"


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