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Artists Protest Over Marina del Rey Company's Bankruptcy

About 450 people gathered outside the Oscars to demand better treatment for the visual effects industry.

Several visual artists on Sunday protested outside the Dolby Theatre because a Marina del Rey-based effects company was forced to file for bankruptcy despite winning an Oscar for their contribution to the film Life of Pi.

Although the visual effects company Rhythm & Hues won the Oscar Sunday and has worked on many highly-successful films, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hunger Games and won two other Oscars for Babe and the Golden Compass, the company filed for bankruptcy last week and laid off about 250 employees on Feb. 13 in the face of underbidding from overseas rivals.

The protest outside the Dolby Theatre drew about 450 people, according to reports on Twitter, and there was also a plane circling overhead with a banner reading “Box Office + Bankrupt = Visual Effects vfxunion.com.”

When Visual Effects Bill Westenhofer accepted the Oscar, he was cut-off by the Jaws theme song as he began to tell the audience about Rhythm & Hues financial troubles.

He stressed the creativity involved in generating the kind of magical, fantastical effects used in the story of a boy castaway stranded in the ocean on a small boat with a Bengal tiger.

"If we don't find a way to fix the business model, we may lose some of the artistry ... Sadly, Rhythm & Hues is suffering severe financial difficulties right now, and I urge you all to remember,” Westenhofer said before his microphone was turned off and he was drowned out by music.

On Feb. 11, VFX professionals and digital artists united to form a Facebook page named “VFX Solidarity International” in light of the recent Rhythm & Hues bankruptcy. As of Tuesday, the Facebook page has over 44,000 fans.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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