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Mill TV to close following vfx downturn

Mill TV to close following vfx downturn
David Wood
28 March 2013

The Mill is proposing to close its award-winning vfx department Mill TV with the possible loss of 25 jobs. The move will see the departure of senior figures such as Mill TV’s managing director and executive producer Will Cohen.

The Mill CEO Robin Shenfield said that Mill TV, which had successfully built itself a reputation for vfx on shows such as Doctor Who and Merlin, had weathered losses in 2012 and those losses had accelerated in the first quarter of 2013.

The facility will now focus primarily on its commercials business.

The department had suffered a number of setbacks such as failing to join the roster on Starz/BBC production of DaVinci’s Demons and the cancellation of Sky’s Sinbad sequel.

Going forward, broadcasters are commissioning less high end vfx driven drama series this year, with Merlin discontinued and the BBC not commissioning a Doctor Who series this year.

“While TV vfx have been less volatile than film – last year the US studios spent far less than they did in 2011– TV also seems to have caught the bug and there have been less of those high end commissions and repeat series.”

Shenfield underlined that The Mill’s vfx offices in LA, New York and Chicago are doing good business and that he wasn’t “negative about film and TV vfx in the UK. I think the work will return in both film and TV. We are just at a point of haitus.”

“We have reluctantly decided that this is a business we do not want to play in any more, although I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.”

Shenfield added: “We hope we will be able to re-deploy a number of those people elsewhere in the group and are looking very hard at that.”
The aim is to close the operation at the end of April, subject to a consultation period that starts with immediate effect.

The Mill's Television and Film studio has created high-end visual effects for both broadcast and film, collaborating on television projects such as Doctor Who, Merlin and Sherlock for the BBC, and Elizabeth and Longford for Channel 4.

In recent months all the major UK vfx houses - MPC, Framestore and Double Negative - have downsized their teams as major film contracts have finished. Framestore is understood to have shed around 120 jobs as work on movies such as Iron Man 3 has ended.

Framestore CEO William Sargent said that reducing head count were inevitable because maintaining a vfx crew between shows is hugely expensive.

Sargent also said that a slow down in the green lighting of movies from the US studios had caused a haitus in the supply of VFX work. “We have seven pictures booked over the next 15 months in New York, London and Montreal, but even when supply of VFX work comes back, the demand is going to remain ‘lumpy’ – we have to do more work over a shorter period of time which means taking on more staff for shorter periods. I don’t’ feel that situation is going to go away.”

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