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Orphans Lose Their Home

I read some pretty distressing news today about San Francisco based visual effects house The Orphanage. These guys – while perhaps not as well known – are up there with Digital Domain, ILM and also less known Weta Digital.

If you’re not in the film scene there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them, but I’m certain you’ve seen their work.  The Orphanage worked on movies like Vanilla Sky, Hero, The Day After Tomorrow, Hellboy, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sin City, Aeon Flux, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, Superman Returns, Night at the Museum, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Live Free or Die Hard and most recently Iron Man.  These guys are some of the best.

And they’re closing their doors.

Filmmaker Magazine quoted this letter Stu Maschwitz wrote as a post on his blog.

Today I had the heart-wrenching task of joining my co-founders Scott Stewart and Jonathan Rothbart in announcing that The Orphanage will be suspending operations indefinitely. We started the company ten years ago, tripled in size each year for our first three years, and worked on some of the biggest and best effects movies made. We produced shorts and even features, we spawned a commercial division and an animation company, and we hung out in the halls with Frank Miller, Ethan Hawke, and M.C. Hammer. We did DI before it was called DI, we gave birth to Magic Bullet, and we did really, really good work.

But that’s not what matters the most.

It’s no accident that our company’s name described a place for people, people who may be thrown together, but who ultimately create their own destinies. Scott once described his vision of an orphanage as “a hundred success stories waiting to happen,” and that is exactly what came to pass inside our offices. We have had the privilege of working with many “Orphans” over the years, and watching them grow and take on new responsibilities has been the single greatest part of coming to work every day.

A message to the visual effects industry: You will never find a better employee than a former Orphan.

And to the Orphans: It has been a privilege and an honor to work with you.

This stings. What does this mean for small time guys like us trying to make it in the biz? I’m pretty confident that “indefinitely” doesn’t mean forever.
Your thoughts?

– Tim

  • This news is depressing. I don’t know a whole lot about this group, but it really sounds like a great organization. It’s sad that the community is losing them.

    Is there a positive side to this news? Films are still being made…why are they having to close shop? Are they just part of the unfortunate results of a slower economy?

  • This news is depressing. I don’t know a whole lot about this group, but it really sounds like a great organization. It’s sad that the community is losing them.

    Is there a positive side to this news? Films are still being made…why are they having to close shop? Are they just part of the unfortunate results of a slower economy?

  • I’m afraid that’s the case. Movies are still being made, but the studios aren’t wanting to shell out as much cash for them as they used to. I heard Harrison Ford took a role for half is normal rate (which is $10mil, so $5mil still isn’t too shabby). But when what overhead does an actor have? The Orphanage and guys like them are employing dozens to hundreds of people and have to deal with facilities and equipment. I’m sure they still got work, but my bet it isn’t just wasn’t paying the bills. Bummer deal.

  • I’m afraid that’s the case. Movies are still being made, but the studios aren’t wanting to shell out as much cash for them as they used to. I heard Harrison Ford took a role for half is normal rate (which is $10mil, so $5mil still isn’t too shabby). But when what overhead does an actor have? The Orphanage and guys like them are employing dozens to hundreds of people and have to deal with facilities and equipment. I’m sure they still got work, but my bet it isn’t just wasn’t paying the bills. Bummer deal.

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