Singapore’s VFX & Animation Industry Dilemma

 

Abstract

Hello, I am Desmond Du, a freelance VFX/ Motion Graphics Artist.

I worked for Double Negative Singapore for four months before its closure in late March. Employment was a struggle due to the mass layoff and fresh graduates coming out from schools. It was evident that Singapore’s visual effects and animation industry was declining.

David Kwok, CEO of Tiny Island Productions, saw a need to address this issue. He and Tiny Island invited those who have been laid off and fresh graduates to a briefing at their office . There, David presented his proposal to assist those unemployed through collaboration with various agencies. 

I attended the briefing and below are the highlights.

* I cannot disclose much as much of contents are confidential.

Gathered Opinions

With the rising cost and arduous procedures in Singapore to get employment for expats , it is clear why international companies are investing in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.  An example would be that one could hire two rotoscope artists in Malaysia for the same price in Singapore for just one artist.

Every year the government spends countless amounts of money to help expats to get a job or start a root in Singapore. They wanted instant success by inviting talents from overseas to make up for the position we cannot do but they did not want to train the local talents to grow on par in strength and knowledge with the expats.

Inviting studios from overseas to open their studios in Singapore is a short term solution to make up for the demands of jobs but it does not solve the long term solution, what if those studios decided to get out someday (such as the case with Double Negative). 

We will still all be jobless.

We need to train the local talents to take up stronger positions and lead the local industry from there by starting their own business in Singapore to create more jobs and content.

The government can offer a higher budget and-non profitable subsidy to encourage local film makers to create better local feature films that could be market to foreign countries. 

Through this, we can create our own IP to attract foreign investors, generate jobs and boost the economy of the local Film industry.

Objective

While it is commendable of Tiny Island to help the industry, that is not the purpose of this writing.

What I want is to create awareness for this declining state of VFX and animation industry in Singapore and what is each of us doing to solve it.  We need to learn from David Kwok or JF Koh (who created Starving Artist Fair for comic book artists and illustrators) and create our own opportunities in our own way.

 

For me, I believe we need two things

1. A map or rather a directory website

where we curate the best resources like video tutorials, insightful articles and knowledge, tools of trade, case studies of successful local artists and studios,etc. With the same amount of resources and knowledge disseminated, we can level the playing field for everyone. 

2. An active online community (built on Slack, a collaboration application)

Here we can create many channels such job listings, discussions, events, sharing of knowledge, asking technical questions,etc. A real time chat functionality is present for everyone to communicate ideas and opportunities. Through this, we can bring artists together under a common goal.

 

So what do you think? Leave a comment!

Desmond Du

Desmond Du is a Singaporean pursuing a B.F.A in Motion Media Design at SCAD Savannah. He enjoys sharing knowledge with everyone and helping people to do their best in whatever work they are doing. He is also looking for content creators to collaborate with or share their content on nosleepcreative.com.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The truth is… The animation industry are dominated by businessman, not artists. They have the final say, but whatever it is, always take it with a pinch of salt. I am a production artist and worked in the Singapore animation industry for a few years, and I am going to say one thing – no matter how successful the company is, whether Singapore have IP creation or not, it is not going to affect you! The only exception is that the name of the big company and the projects just looks better in your resume for job hunting, that’s all! When a company is in big crisis, you are going to be the first to go.

    Even if IP creation is done in Singapore, if you put yourself into the shoes of a businessman, chances are production jobs will still be outsourced overseas – due to the cost and talent. Many production people will still be jobless again. If you really intend to work in the movie/ animation industry, either you shift your job scope towards the business department in Singapore or you go overseas to work as a production artist.

    It is probably gonna be tough for fresh graduates to start off in Singapore, but if you have the intention to go overseas within the next year. I will encourage you to work in Singapore for the experience, suffer a bit, build up your portfolio, send out. Once you grab the opportunity, seize it and just go!

    I have one last thing to say for people who are intending to jump out of the industry without trying. The pay may not be as fantastic, as long as you are single, not burden by anything, it would be a fantastic experience once in a lifetime. No regrets! If I have to rethink of my choice again, I will still choose to study animation again.

  2. Just another side note which is happening in Singapore (SG) right now regarding the plight of foreign scholars who are expected to be bonded and required to work in for at least 3 years:

    Foreigners who come to SG under the SG scholarship are bonded and required to work in SG for 2 years upon graduation. But now with the recent enforcement of the foreign labor quota…companies will face high levy charges for employing foreigners if they cannot prove that they have tried to employ locals first.

    Furthermore the eligibility criteria for Foreign labor now has gotten stricter 1) Employment pass holders must be paid min $3.3k a mth and be working in specialised/managerial/professional roles.

    S-Pass holders must be paid min $2.2k a mth and the company will face foreign labor levy which is abt an additional $5-7k on top of the workers salary unless they meet the labour quota which varies per industry.

    For the animation/media the quota is like 1 foreigner to 7 singaporeans
    So essesntially most small companies can hire only like 1 foreigner if they wanna escape levy charges.

    Thus, some of my foreign friends cannot get long term employment pass and are forced to leave SG due to strict Immigration regulations.
    One friend has to like leave every 2wks and come back to SG on visit pass/tourist just to work as a freelancer with companies who require his services but can’t officially hire him.

Leave a Reply