Avatar 2 Concept Artists Say They Were Paid Unfair Wages

By TeeJay Small | Published

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Things just keep looking worse for James Cameron’s latest VFX spectacular, Avatar: The Way Of Water with allegations of unfair wages from concept artists. According to a Twitter thread posted by VFX artist Logan Preshaw, Weta Workshop, an art studio contracted to do effects for the groundbreaking film, paid artists as low as minimum wage for their long hours and tireless effort. This statement is one in a long line of accusations of VFX artists being severely underpaid and underappreciated.

The Avatar concept artists working on the latest installment of the series made incredible technological leaps in The Way of Water with its 3D modeling, water physics, and use of landscape. But it may shock viewers to find out that despite the film’s enormous budget, concept artists were allegedly unfairly compensated. According to Preshaw, he was required to take a pay cut of $10 from his previous visual effects gig, dropping his salary to that of minimum wage.

VFX artists have long been victims of the Hollywood machine, and have noted their mistreatment online, perhaps made most famous in 2016 with Seth Rogen‘s Sausage Party, which allegedly saw a number of unnamed animators forced to work overtime hours without pay under threat of losing their jobs.

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Preshaw notes that his 10-hour day contributions to the world of Avatar as a member of the concept artists team paid $21 NZD, which translates to roughly $13 per hour. He continues “When I asked for more pay ~8 months in, quoting my previous job’s pay and experience, it was raised to $23 (NZD.) 3 months later I left.”

James Cameron has gone on record as saying the film would need to gross over $2 billion in order to break even because of its massive budget, so it’s hard to say why the studio felt the need to cut corners with its massive VFX contributions. Preshaw notes that this budgeting constraint is not the fault of Cameron, or of 20th Century, but the cause of Weta Workshops themselves, while adding that the studio had concurrent contracts with other films such as Mulan, MIB4, and more.

These Avatar 2 accusations come after many have criticized Disney’s Marvel films for underpaying their VFX workers and concept artists as well. 2022 has seen a host of similar accusations including those of artists contracted for Avengers: Endgame, Jon Watt’s Spider-Man trilogy, and James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy. None of these accusations seemed to put a dent in the films’ bottom lines, however, as their latest installments into the MCU have been some of the most profitable box office openings of all time.

Preshaw put it succinctly in the initial thread, concluding “I took what I could for the rare privilege of working with a world-class team. To justify their rates based on that is gross and enables the devaluing of artists.” Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16th, and features some of the finest visual effects money can buy, but it appears that might not trickle down to concept artists.