Loki season 2 director Dan DeLeeuw believes Marvel is starting to improve working conditions for its visual effects (VFX) artists – but adds more needs to be done to address the industry-wide issue.
Speaking exclusively to TechRadar, DeLeeuw is well aware of the problem Marvel Studios is currently grappling with.
DeLeeuw joined the Disney subsidiary in 2012 as a second unit VFX supervisor on Iron Man 3, and, in the 11 years that have followed, DeLeeuw has enjoyed a steady rise through the studio’s ranks. DeLeeuw helped lead VFX production on Avengers: Infinity War, was installed as second unit director on scenes for Avengers: Endgame (one of the best Marvel movies), and was on chief filmmaking duties on the second episode of Loki season 2.
While proud of becoming an integral behind-the-scenes cog in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) machine, DeLeeuw has witnessed first-hand the increasingly stressful work environment its VFX team has dealt with. Marvel’s pivot from a movies-only studio to one that also makes MCU Disney Plus shows has only increased concerns that VFX employees are overworked and underpaid.
Indeed, in mid-2022, in-depth reports from Vulture and IGN, comprising interviews with multiple past and present Marvel VFX staff, have highlighted the poor working conditions many have faced – and damaged Marvel’s reputation in the process. In the 12 months since those initial allegations broke, Marvel VFX employees have voted unanimously to unionize (per Variety), allowing them to fight for better pay and flexible working hours, among other requests.
BREAKING: Marvel Studios’ Visual Effects (VFX) Workers UNANIMOUSLY voted in favor of unionizing with IATSE in a labor board election. This marks the first time a unit of solely VFX Workers has unionized with IATSE since VFX was pioneered nearly a half-century ago. pic.twitter.com/gqMx2dIQj3September 13, 2023
Given the pressure Marvel has been under, I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask DeLeeuw about his own MCU experiences. While he was understandably hesitant to say something that might incur the wrath of his employers, DeLeeuw admitted things need to improve – at Marvel and within the wider entertainment industry – where VFX workers are concerned.
“I think it [unionization] is something that should be supported,” DeLeeuw said. “Everyone should get fair pay and work reasonable hours.
“When I began in visual effects, we’d gotten so used to the crunch time that it became systemic. There’s an old documentary that came out, which featured [award-winning] VFX artist John Dykstra, who worked on Star Wars, and he was talking about crunch back then, so this is nothing new.
“But I think what is new is the amount of time that artists spend on a show and don’t get a break afterward. You used to be able to work on one show and then take a few months off. Now, with the MCU, you have people going from one big visual effects-centric production to another. If we can find a way to help control that, give our employees more family time, and allow them to recharge their batteries between shows, I think it’ll be a huge help.”
Loki season 2’s first episode debuted on Disney Plus on October 5 in the US (October 6 in the UK and Australia). After the criticism leveled at other Marvel Phase 5 productions, including Secret Invasion and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, fans were delighted to see the next installment of Loki‘s TV show get off to a terrific time-hopping start.
If you’ve yet to watch Loki season 2’s opening salvo or want to get a spoiler-free insight into future episodes, read our full thoughts on Loki season 2’s first four installments. Alternatively, read the list below for more Loki season 2 coverage – and be sure to check back in with us over the next few weeks for more exclusive content surrounding one of the best Disney Plus shows.