Movie visual effects (VFX) artists working in B.C. say post-production companies are taking advantage of the province's tax credits, then subcontracting out work to China and India.

Visual effects companies, responsible for creating computer generated imagery (CGI) and combining this with live action footage to produce finished films, receive tax credits currently set at 33 per cent of labour costs in B.C.

But under pressure to keep costs down, many VFX companies are underbidding for work, undercutting each other and outsourcing projects to countries with cheaper labour.

Greg Vernon, Executive Producer of Seattle-based VFX company Tinderbox, used to run an office in Vancouver, but says he cannot compete with other companies sending work overseas.

"I think the government does have the ability to put strict controls on companies who are sending their work overseas," said Vernon.

"But there is a clear lack of oversight, and a clear lack of auditing procedures going on."

Last month, film workers in Vancouver urged the provincial government to increase tax credits in B.C., after Ontario and Quebec raised their own incentives to a 25 per cent tax credit on all production costs.

More than 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the B.C. government to step up their offering.

But Premier Christy Clark responded by outlining tax credits the province already provides and stopped short of announcing any further tax breaks for the industry.

Critics argue that tax credits are passed on to movie studios rather than VFX companies, who are encouraged to follow the tax breaks, opening and closing offices accordingly, forcing workers to do the same or lose their jobs.

Piece of the Pi

The difficulties facing the industry were highlighted at the Academy Awards last Sunday, when VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer accepted an Oscar on behalf of Rhythm & Hues, the VFX firm largely responsible for the imagery of Life of Pi.

Despite working on several successful, award-winning movies, the firm — which has an office in Vancouver — was forced to file for bankruptcy just days before the Oscars ceremony.

Westenhofer attempted to broach the company's problems during his Oscars speech, but was cut off by the band before he could go into any detail.

"Sadly Rhythm & Hues is suffering financial difficulties right now," he said. "I urge you all to remember."

Outside the ceremony, hundreds of VFX artists took to the streets to demonstrate their anger at the company's predicament, saying they feel disregarded by movie studios.

Meanwhile, others argue the problems facing VFX artists simply arise from the industry's business model, which sees prices for jobs fixed before projects commence, while other factors such as deadlines are prone to change.