LA Times Report On Digital Domain Institute

LA Times reporter Richard Verrier has an article out on Digital Domain Institute:

“Find me another visual effects company that is as committed to growing jobs in North America as Digital Domain,” Textor said. “If this is taking advantage of kids, I wish somebody would have taken advantage of me when I was in school…. For $28,000 a year, you get an FSU degree and get to work at one of the leading visual effects companies in the world.”

Motionographer also has a post on the issue:

Now I know that you are shocked, absolutely shocked! by these sort of goings-on in the movie business. But the horse has left the barn. The cat is out of the bag. The fat lady sang. No amount of collective smacking our heads, moaning and groaning and rage as we sit in front of our computer screens will stop this from happening now.

Rebecca David of Canadian Animation Resources has a very good article that I encourage you to read:

Something needs to be done. When I say ‘something’ I do not mean ‘sit around on Twitter and bitch about it’. I mean writing emails to anyone in any position of power so they know we don’t like it. I mean contacting anyone who might matter, so that any person functioning under the impression that this is a good thing gets their minds changed. I mean telling everyone about it, so that we are immunized against this kind of thinking.

Digital Domain founder and fomer ILM General Manager recently posted this comment on my blog:

Textor is so worried about losing jobs to China that he (DD) is opening a studio in Beijing… and Abu Dhabi.
DDMG’s 10k was just published….

John Textor received in 2011 base comp of $791,372, bonus comp of $407,000, awarded stock options of $8,351,210 and other comp of $6,525,461 or a total comp of $16,075,044.

DDMG had revenues in 2011 of $95,611,000… and an operating loss of ($75,109,000)…

I don’t have much to add except a few comments about Mr. Textor’s statement that he is the only VFX company growing jobs in North America. That’s categorically incorrect. Sony, Rhythm & Hues, Zoic Studios, Image Engine, and many other  companies have opened shop in Vancouver where there has been a huge growth in VFX jobs.

This wasn’t because of some compassionate idea of creating jobs in North America, it was because the major film studios based in California have required the work be done there so they can obtain a huge government subsidy. I and some international trade law experts point out that this is a violation of WTO rules on subsidies.

I’ve always said on my blog that I don’t ask people to trust me, I ask them to verify what I am writing. I try my best to back info up with facts. The same should be said for anyone in this industry. As I pointed out in my last post and as Scott Ross done above, the argument that a company is trying to create jobs here to prevent it from going to places like China and India is a bit dubious since Mr. Textor fully intends to build facilities in India, and China even with subsidies and tuition in Florida.

Don’t trust. Verify.

Soldier On.

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90 Responses to LA Times Report On Digital Domain Institute

  1. 3qg32gsg3fg says:

    It’s nice to finally get a comment from Mr. Textor, such as it is.

    I’m sure he’s a very smart guy, but there’s some awfully big assumptions that are at best wishful thinking and at worst complete fabrication.

    1. College students will be capable of doing production quality work in a useful time frame.

    I’m sure there’s talented young people out there, but there’s a whole lot more to the job than the software – or even artistic talent.

    2. The barrier to entry into working on feature films is previous feature film experience of any kind.

    Is it? Not entirely, that I’ve seen. Overwhelmingly, the barrier is being in the right place at the right time when a production needs people and is willing to hire entry-level artists to fill seats. Even then, few continue on and fewer stay more than a few years.

    It remains to be seen whether companies besides DD will even consider it to be relevant experience. I don’t exactly see the labor market being flooded by all the Indian artists who paid to for the privilege of gaining work experience, do you?

    3. The VFX job market as it currently exists will be available to these graduates.

    People are paying giant sums of money for access to a relatively small number of jobs that are perceived to be lucrative and prestigious. Look what happened with lawyers in the last few years. Even if DD magically creates jobs for all their graduates, they won’t be remotely the same jobs that these kids entered school hoping for.

    I wish the best for anyone that signs up for this college, I really do, but they aught to know what they’re signing up for. And for Mr. Textor’s sake, I hope he really is genuinely ignorant, yet another businessman who thinks he can solve the VFX business with Excel. Merely wrong rather than cynically greedy.

    • John Textor says:

      “People are paying giant sums of money for access to a relatively small number of jobs that are perceived to be lucrative and prestigious. Look what happened with lawyers in the last few years. Even if DD magically creates jobs for all their graduates, they won’t be remotely the same jobs that these kids entered school hoping for. ”

      My sentiments exactly…Full Sail has 12,000 students…hundreds graduate each month…the jobs are just not there to support that…we were only able to hire three Full Sail grads out of our first three hundred hires in Florida.

      The Digital Domain Institute is intended to go way beyond VFX in film and games. Thousands of jobs are available in industries that would kill to benefit from the best of VFX artists that otherwise will lose their jobs if nothing changes.

      The VFX business model, as a pure services model, is broken. At Digital Domain, we are pursuing ways to stretch our talents into industries where are customers are more likely to love us…and pay us fairly…not push us offshore. The entire VFX industry for features is maybe only $2.3 billion per year. Military simulation is $26 billion. Surgical simulation could be $10 billion within three to five years. The people on this site work in an industry that puts more passion, art, creativity and technology into a matinee movie than we would dedicate to the doctors that heal us and the soldiers that defend us…and I am the ignorant one?

      I am sorry, but I don’t see the value in taking strategic advice from the pioneers of a broken industry.

      I do, however, take advice from artists who talk about art. Programmers that talk about code. Storytellers that tell stories.

      I cannot fix the VFX industry. I am definitely not smart enough for that. I just think that the ‘digital domain’ is a very big world…and I think that the talents of our industry can do wonders in that world.

      Call me an ignorant businessman all you want and I’ll keep trying to help…but I was probably a 3D programmer before you were born (unless you remember vrml…and I apologize)…sorry, I lost myself for a minute…back to the help part…

      It is true…we are the only company in our industry that is aggressively adding headcount in THIS country and in North America. Root for us, work with us…the cynical approach is a complete waste of energy.

      If we fail, you can make fun of us. If we all fail, and you didn’t try to help, look in the mirror.

      …and I am sorry it took so long for you to get a comment from me. Frankly, nobody asked. I offered VFXSoldier a full interview and I was politely turned down. Any takers? We have a lot to say and the LA Times real estate is too expensive to print complete ideas…no editing rules apply.

      Best,
      John Textor

      • vfxguy says:

        Would you mind clarifying a couple of things?

        1) From the course description on the website, it says that students are required to do 150 hours internship at DD or another facility. Will students be working on live projects outside of this internship time?

        2) Could you clarify exactly what you mean by “30% of the workforce” being students? Is that 30% of the west palm beach facility (in which case how many artists total do you expect to have there), or 30% of DD worldwide?

      • Ashes says:

        John, I have delurked to post about this in several of VFX Soldier’s blogs on this. I have defended, somewhat, what DD is doing because the mass majority were being incredible hypocrits. They have condoned goverments buying work for their local vfx houses and ignore the fact that there are tons of internships that don’t pay. This is a pretty common practice in other industries and universities.

        That being said, you have to recognize that what you said, and I get you were in a room of suits, just sounds awful from both an ethical and business stand point. VFX houses can barely get the work done with highly trained and skilled artists, let alone a work force with 30% student, read unskilled and no production experience people, that will have to be babysat.

        I do appreciate that you are attempting to change the way that business is being done, but you really need to see what’s going with your current workers before trying to implement the Florida branch. I have worked at DD before and after Ross was there. I find it laughable that the guy who referred to artists as “wrists” and supported the practice of telling people, “Hey, you guys work youselves sick and get 100 finals this week and we’ll buy you a keg of beer” suddenly cares about the artists.

        DD Venice is not happy. They have been lied to since a certain ILM alum took power. From the, “Oh no, DD has nothing to do with any facility in Florida” to the “Oh no, we won’t be doing vfx in Florida.”

        They don’t have a safe harbor 401k, but hey, they can borrow a bike and have pet insurance. They are being told about the fabulous new studio in Florida while sitting in a temp screening room with garabage cans that catch leaks from the roof and chairs that hurt their backs. They watch shots go to VC and London. They have to fight for cost of living pay increases each year while execs are getting huge salaries and bonuses, not to mention the “living expense” stipend of over $4k a month so someone could rent a place while still maintain a residence in SF after a year. Really?

        So, please understand all of this underdermines your crediblity within the vfx community. Artists all talk and share their experiences at various vfx houses and right now DD is not coming off too well. The artists working in Venice are incredible, but if you aren’t careful you are going to loose them and trust me, you are going to need them if you want to succeed.

        Seriously, I do wish you all the best and would love for DDMG to succeed. I appreciate that you are thinking larger than just the film industry and I think you have some great business ideas. Good luck, I’ll be very interested to see how all of this plays out.

      • 3qg32gsg3fg says:

        Mr. Textor,

        I appreciate the reply. I do remember VRML, thanks. :) I hope you can appreciate that this subject strikes a nerve, so I apologize if I sound bitter.

        “The entire VFX industry for features is maybe only $2.3 billion per year. Military simulation is $26 billion. Surgical simulation could be $10 billion within three to five years. The people on this site work in an industry that puts more passion, art, creativity and technology into a matinee movie than we would dedicate to the doctors that heal us and the soldiers that defend us…and I am the ignorant one?”

        With all due respect, yes. Do you really think we got into this business because we wanted to do military simulation? Do you really think we’d work as hard, with as much passion? If we wanted to be doctors, we’d be doctors.

        Most of us love working on “matinee movies” and it speaks volumes that you feel it to be a waste of our time.

        Moreover, you should follow one of your artists around for a day and see what it is exactly we put so much effort and hours into. Hint: it’s not simulation. It’s making 14 layers of leads/supervisors/directors/producers happy with our work. The iterative, collaborative process fuels our work, not the technology. The gee-whiz gizmos are a tiny fraction of what the vast majority of us do with our time.

        You’re not exactly the first guy to say, “HEY! You guys are doing some similar stuff as this other huge industry! Let’s team up!” It hasn’t worked for them for exactly the same reasons.

        The fact that you believe students who train for a couple months can do what we do speaks volumes about your understanding of the process itself.

        “I do, however, take advice from artists who talk about art. Programmers that talk about code. Storytellers that tell stories.

        I cannot fix the VFX industry. I am definitely not smart enough for that. I just think that the ‘digital domain’ is a very big world…and I think that the talents of our industry can do wonders in that world.”

        So, unless we fit into the specific pigeonholes our our narrow job titles, we’re not worth listening to?

        It sounds an awful lot like you’re saying outright that our ‘talent’ is a tradeable commodity and if we would just keep quiet and sit in our chairs, then your company could finally turn a profit. We’re not livestock. We won’t just go wherever you want us to and work on whatever you tell us because your projections say that’s a synergistic dynamic strategy for maximizing your price.

        I wish you and your company the best, I really do. We both want nothing more than to see a vibrant, healthy VFX industry.

        “I am sorry, but I don’t see the value in taking strategic advice from the pioneers of a broken industry.”

        You should, especially if they didn’t break it. I’m pretty sure it was guys with cool ideas for making lots of money.

        Thanks again for your time.

      • Dave Rand says:

        I understand your comments certainly were not meant for VFX artists ears but they fell on them nevertheless, and they fell hard. Their reaction is exactly as would be expected. Frankly, I’m grateful because it’s times like this that are opportunities to raise everyone’s consciousness. Your words were not taken out of context but taken from a recording that is now online along with those printed words.

        So great to see your posting here on our “underground” website. I sincerely thank you for your post. I consider you a very influential person with the potential to offer many great opportunities to our industry… and I consider DD to be a one of the very very best in the business.

        Here’s my quote to the Times in it’s entirety :
        _______________________

        “I have many friends at DD at many levels. I have great respect for the creative staff there and I supported their IPO as it’s a broad avenue for other vendors to crawl out from under the narrow margins imposed by the massive leverage of the studios, the Popes of this defunct business model of bidding without a blueprint. A model that has been turning Hollywood’s fruit full VFX community into a creative dustbowl.

        These unfortunate comments have not only put that creative community into a difficult situation, but from an investor relations standpoint, actually unbranded DD by moving them from a non profit organization to a student film company. It’s a reactive and myopic plan to a future that should contain far better solutions for everyone’s bottom line, the studio’s, the shop’s, and the artist’s”
        _______________________

        I apologize to some as what I’m about to say has been posted many times by me and at the risk of being a broken record to some I’m reposting for those that Ricard’s article may attract to our cause.

        I’m no expert and I certainly don’t feel I know or have accomplished more than you but It’s my belief that the chiefs should be “taking strategic advice from the pioneers of a broken industry”. Some of us have plenty of real life observations that could be indispensable to the future of our industry.

        Some of us even feel like the child in the fable “The Emperor is Not Wearing Any Clothes”.

        As modern VFX artists we are responsible for most of Hollywood’s bottom line. Yet because we lack any leverage at all the shit just rolls downhill. In 2007 an attempt was made to not pay us at all for over 1.3 million dollars for the feature Journey to the Center of the Earth. This business model of going bankrupt and emerging as a new business after shafting the artist’s pay quickly began to spread as the new “answer” That’s when I got involved and with the help of people like VFX Soldier, Richard Vernier, and David Cohen we brought some things into the light.

        As a former syndicate broker with one of the firms DD attempted an IPO with, I, like many, have insights that you may find worthy of a conversation.

        Great companies like DD have rarely turned a profit and in fact lose millions and most eventually go bankrupt. I backed your IPO whole heartedly because it was breaking ground for the rest of the shops to generate funds to make their own content, and avenue that is truly a valid answer to the problem.

        The Real Problem…

        So I’m no expert but here are my observations after being in this business for 20 yrs, working for many shops and being on the staff of five shops that have gone bankrupt after turning pixels into millions for others. It’s my belief that this has been happening because we are not allowed to treat the new set like the “old” movie set. We, the vfx artists, are now the set, the bulk of the movie is made on workstations by artists, the rest is pre-production. However, unlike the unionized set, shops, or vendors like DD are forced to bid on projects giving a fixed price shot by shot. This is a borrowed business model from the construction business that is meant to go with a blueprint, but instead it is accompanied by a couple paragraphs at best and the whims of those that deal it to you, the Studios. They can do this because they have forged tremendous leverage by organization, something we need to do in order to have a proper business relationship and be proper business folks. This massive leverage imbalance has created a giant ball of shit that is rolling downhill and most of us are tired of it hitting the VFX artists in the face because we have the least amount of leverage in that equation.

        It’s even hurting the studios bottom line as they have gotten so big they can not even get our of their own way.

        This imbalance has been going on since Michelangelo painted the pope’s ceiling. Yes, we as modern VFX have great opportunities, but more importantly it’s about time artists can make a living and the importance of visual imagery is established as a viable and vastly important industry to all areas of the human experience. I’ve posted many times that VFX is not only for fun and games but eventually will become the way we communicate as a species. I’m glad you share that vision, for me it makes up for any off cuff comments to a group of investors.

        Construction, another field I have great experience with, uses a model called “cost plus” when no fixed and definite blueprint is available. It’s what the formal movie set adopted decades ago.. It’s the only way to routinely turn a profit and needs to be adopted by us. When it is, as I’ve run shows this way, the focus is tremendous, creativity is on full blast with no shortcuts, and the decision maker is on set, everyone gets to the point and artists rarely get past version 3 before their brain, the most important hardware and software in the business, turns to mush. The savings for ALL– shops AND studios -as I’ve experienced- beats any artificial bottom line from a tax incentives and is the real secret, the real answer. Work originating in North America can stay in North America. As Soldier has posted our real profits only come when we recognize the agglomerate industry that we are.

        This means sitting down with the studios along your brother and sister shops and pointing out that they can also profit if this model is adopted. That way the competition is not artificial and relies solely on the ability of shops to create strong brand names, something I feel DD has already. Something that will be lost if we allow cheaper and more subsidized to be the new “better”.

        That’s not how America was built but is now how it’s being sold off. Market socialism is not the American way and I believe we’ve proven that good old fashioned hard work and branding built this country. I do not adhere to the fear tactics and smoke screens of those who want to siphon off what is left by spreading fear the we need to become more like China and India to compete with them. I don’t want to work for a bowl of rice. That’s what America left in the dust. I will not be part of it’s return.

        The idea of a VFX Trade Organization originated with Scott Ross former head of Digital Domain and ILM, I believe he is speaking from experience also. With this plan everyone wins and students can have internships that are not being hailed exploitive but rather purely educational and justified.

      • Ed says:

        Art is an important part of a civilisation, and movies are the pinnacle of art, combining imagery, motion, music and theatre in one medium. Of course we want to put more passion and creativity into VFX as opposed to the war machine owned by a bunch of offshore bankers that are butchering women and children in third world countries to grab their resources and set up their totalitarian world government. They’re intentionally collapsing the world economy to make populations weak, scared, poor and desperate enough to welcome the world government offered as a solution to the chaos they created. Many owners of companies such as yourself have no doubt been paid off to close companies or outsource to promote the communist wealth transfer of the new world order and collapse the west. Proud of yourself?

      • Tonks says:

        Perhaps that’s because FullSail is a joke.

      • cubicspace says:

        i started the first vrml creative design group and SIG in the us in 95. i also approached DD for a paying job at your televised job line/ bread line last year in florida. we even spoke. needless to say my 25 years pioneering 3d on computers and rt3d was ignored and passed over in leu of paying the kids i saw in line a few sub 20/hr jobs to settle florida local job search requirements.:) The FLorida “design schools” that suck 100k from each goverment paid young adult are shamefull in also knowing they are developing buisness plans to make repaying the loans these kids have taken, impossible.
        i lived 13 years in CA and watched the old VFX guard fuck up the new medium offered them, and now i see a new breed of theivery… its shameful. From Tech and Google and CC cults to VC cults using tax payer money to enrich themeselves… its just more of the same. I guess fleecing the youth is the only ART left in this country….

      • Ann says:

        Mr. Textor, as a medical artist and animator with over 20 years experience I find it refreshing that you feel you can buy your unskilled students into the medical simulation field with no formal medical school or other comparable scientific training. I’ve heard your arguments before. Sadly there are more than a few academic institutions out there who try to attract students (naive payers) with the ‘simulation’ lure. You will find that myself and my peers in this area are not as easily pushed over by you and your shareholders, nor are we willing to sacrifice our paid medical, vacation and well rewarded and well-earned staff positions for your cheap Florida labor scenario. In fact, our field is growing and doing just fine without DD and will continue to do so. You see Mr. Textor, my clients aren’t interested in taking their research projects off shore for tax credits, nor are they interested in relocating to Florida away from major research centers. My industry is not broken as you claim the VFX industry is, so your arguments about preserving domestic labor are without merit. In my opinion you are just another businessman trying to chase the money like so many have before you. If left alone I believe you would ultimately fail as so many others before you.

        What I have a problem with is your shameful lack of ethics. Even the MIT Media lab, your closest competition, doesn’t charge its students tuition.

        What I intend to do about you is continue to inform my fellow peers in the medical (and defense) industries of your intentions – your lack of respect for our DOMESTIC jobs and fare wages & benefits. I will also be contacting my elected representatives to ensure that my tax dollars are not misused at DD facilities, whether they be for military or other agency contracts, which promote unscrupulous labor practices.

        Do us all a favor and stick to just wrecking the VFX industry.

      • Maddy says:

        Only company. Really? A lot of entry level artists were just hired 2 months ago at Image Engine. Image Engine just added a 3rd building to house these entry level employees. The plan is to refrain from outsourcing as much as possible and instead keep the work in house; train up future comp/effects artists. I believe that, so far, not one roto shot has been outsourced on current projects.

        So the only company, eh? What percentage of roto and matchmoving is outsourced by DD?

        You get grants for this horrendous school exploitation idea by saying you’re trying to keep work in N. America and then plans are announced for studios in China and India. You are a liar and a disgrace to this industry.

    • John Textor says:

      Thanks Dave, Ashes, VFX guy and 3-something.

      OK…I think I would rather just talk. There is so much that is misunderstood about what we are doing. So many of your comments are right on point, but a number from this board don’t even relate to our program. Students will not walk in off the street and come close to the kind of talent that we need. We all know that. Even if they are good, they are not going to ready (some times at a maturity level) to be dropped into the workflow…a student won’t touch a frame under this idea until that are at least third year, after two solid years of training in our program…and only after they have performed well in general education requirements for their degree. Also remember, through FSU we have access to a graduate degree accreditation which means we will likely have a lot of senior talent that may have already been in the workforce (and want to make a lateral skills change) All off of one stupid comment (not out of context, but certainly tongue in cheek) the folks on this board and others have gone deep into an argument against an approach they don’t understand.

      Is it 30% or 10% or 0%. Tough to tell…but I do think that 3rd year students and graduate students training under our watchful eye, with real professionals like yourselves will be better than the experiencing in other parts of the world. I do care about artists (not sure about the keg comment) and I care more about adding jobs here than overseas. I didn’t create the economics that are sending jobs away and I don’t think this plan has students taking jobs from pros. I think this holds jobs, creates more viable projects, in this country. Maybe I am wrong, but we are going to start with really small numbers and its two-three years away from being meaningful even for one studio.

      On the simulation front…I am sorry sir but you are one perspective, speaking for a few more, suggesting that you all think alike. I have spoken with plenty of vfx artists that like the idea of simulation, especially given the alternative of continued work in an industry that doesn’t always treat its artists that well. Do you have a problem with the tought of helping soldiers and doctors…or just doctors? If its not for you, that’s fine. Jobs and careers are choices. I just hope to create more choices.

      On that point, many people in our industry don’t even have jobs…they have contracts with end dates…not cool. That’s gotta change too.

      Regarding the comments about DD, most know that I have not been involved directly until recent changes. I am learning a lot about needed changes every day. I think we have a team of people that do care. The no dickhead rule in Florida has got to be put in place everywhere. It’s not that easy, but it’s a good goal.

      Why I don’t want to keep typing and would rather talk…I suck at typing and even my words now are misconstrued. I didn’t mean to say that I don’t take advice from anybody in this industry with experience…anyone that knows me personally from DD will know that I have great respect for their ideas. I just really question the business model.

      I will be in LA next week. Anyone interested in a chat? I would love to be kicked around by some of this criticism. I think you’ll find that you can affect our plan with well thought out ideas. Diversity of thought is great. Fear is only thing that really bothers me when talking about change. Seriously, I would love to get together. Up for it?

      My direct number is 772-345-8100. I am obvioulsy just one guy, a very small part of our industry…but I would love the sit down.

      Thanks,
      John

      • Ashes says:

        The keg comment was a dig at Scott Ross, not you. :) While I would normally jump at a chance to chat, I feel better being anonymous, it’s a bit close to home for me to be involved in a one on one. I’ve been in this industry too long to give that up because I’ve seen the consequences when someone does.

        One thing I would advise you, if you’ll be in LA. Get a list of the Venice employees that have been there longer than 6 or 7 years that are BELOW the VFX or DFX sup levels. I’m talking the fx, anim, lighting, and comp leads and sups. You’ll get more insight and ideas about DD from them than anyone else. Especially an insight to DD culture and the morale of the artists.

        Actually listen to Brad Bird:

        Lesson One: Herd Your Black Sheep
        The Quarterly: How did your first project at Pixar—The Incredibles—shake things up?
        Brad Bird: I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well. We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

        Find out who the “unpopular” people are, but have managed to stick around. They are usually the really good ones who others don’t like because although they are talented, they aren’t part of the in crowd and are usually not the yes men.

      • Scott Ross says:

        John,

        Thanks for taking my call today. I look forward to seeing you in LA next week to talk about the formation of an International Visual Effects Trade Association.

        Best,
        Scott Ross

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        John,

        thank you for sticking your head into this lion cave. Its appreciated that you want to get in contact. I would love to have a chat with you in person but I am currently in Vancouver, following my Los Angeles Job as it its following the tax incentive to Canada.

        If you ever happen to visit DD Vancouver, please let me know.
        thank you.

        Andreas Jablonka

      • Scott Ross says:

        JOHN,
        HAVEN’T HEARD FROM YOU THOUGH I’VE PUT IN A PHONE CALL TO YOUR OFFICE. YOUR OFFICE TOLD ME THAT YOU’RE IN LOS ANGELES. I THOUGHT YOU HAD SUGGESTED THAT WE GET TOGETHER WHILST YOU WERE HERE.
        KEEPING MY WEDNESDAY OPEN IN THE HOPES THAT YOU FIND SOME TIME TO GET TOGETHER.

        SCOTT ROSS

      • Scott Ross says:

        John,

        I called your office again, they said you were busy… sorry we couldn’t get together. Hope all went well. I would appreciate a call back.
        Looking forward to speaking soon,

        Scott Ross

      • Scott Ross says:

        John, I called a few more times.. but still no return call. I’m sure you’re very busy with the Tupac story… If you read the blog, please give me a call. I look forward to talking to you about a VFX Trade Association.
        Sincerely,
        Scott Ross

      • Scott Ross says:

        Mr. Textor and I finally met…. at DD ( that was strange….don’t get me wrong… it was great seeing a bunch of old time DDers but being back in the Warehouse was sorta like going back to high school!).

  2. Pssst says:

    [Remember, this is a hollywood-centric blog]

    Escape Studios was founded in April 2002
    by Dominic Davenport and fully supported by Oscar winning director Ridley Scott.[1] Based in Shepherds Bush, London and now New York, United States Escape was originally setup as a computer graphics training school but now provides recruitment, hardware and software sales, and production services. Escape has built a reputation delivering online and classroom training, recruitment, software and hardware services to the global computer graphics (CG) community.
    Escape boasts one of the foremost schools of computer animation and visual effects. Escape’s partnerships with top studios gives students the opportunity to work on ‘live’ visual effects and games projects

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_Studios

    The current development of the freelance, free-agent knowledge labor market, enabled by the development of Internet, and requiring no formal credential to compete (just informal credibility), is a disruptive force in traditional labor markets, if there ever was one. And teens are joining that disruptive force in droves.
    Educators, commentators and parents who keep pointing to the college wage premium in the traditional full-time knowledge labor market as a reason young people should not compete on the freelance free-agent knowledge market, and who cling to outdated notions that people who actually support themselves in the latter are merely “outliers,” are willfully blinding themselves to a massive tidal wave of self-employment crashing over their cherished neat and traditional labor markets.
    People who used personal computers were “outliers” in 1977. People who used the Internet were “outliers” in 1993. People who used Facebook were “outliers” in 2004. When dealing with disruptive forces washing through traditionally-stable markets, all statistical forecasting goes out the window.
    The rise of the Internet was a Black Swan event, an occurrence that showed up on almost no one’s predictions, and which revolutionized everything. It was the disruptive innovation par excellence.
    Is it any surprise then, that this disruptive innovation is leading to massive disruption in labor markets, and in the ways people educate themselves to compete on those markets? Is it any surprise that it’s changing the way teens perceive market opportunity, and the way they perceive educational requirements (or lack thereof) to capitalize on it?
    Those attached to the old, outdated models willingly strap their own blindfolds on even tighter. Which makes the fruits of new markets and new opportunities all the more ripe for young disruptors

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2011/05/10/teen-knowledge-work/

    • sarcastic_vfx_guy says:

      I’m not sure, but I think there might have been some interwebz e-business web2.0 buzzwords you DIDN’T use. Wait, nope, you covered it.

      It’s nearly impossible to take this seriously. Have fun trying to capitalize on kids screwing around with computers. I’m gonna go watch Black Swan again and let a massive tidal wave of self-employment crash over my cherished neat and traditional labor market.

    • clave says:

      Just skimming this article you can see the bias — youth over experience (we don’t have to pay you useless old, blindfolded workers anymore), disruptive forces, (that means outtacontrol! events (OMG it’s the internet) make excuses to screw working people), you don’t need a degree (another attack on our educational system that harmonizes well with the thinking of Santorumesque agendas). If America is going to celebrate and overpay assholes and exclude its middle class we’re all screwed.

    • Londonist says:

      I sadly work with Alumni of Escape Studios. The sort of brain washing they are given is extraordinary. They are led to believe they are vfx professionals after a few month of training. Escape also operate as an employment agency and take a percentage of wages of all graduates for I think 6 months. Shameful business.

  3. Bruno Giordano says:

    So lemee see if I understand, young artist. You’re going to borrow 30K a year on a recourse loan (that can never be discharged via bankruptcy) to work for free so as to increase the aggregate stock of people doing the work you want to do following graduation, while at the same time undercutting the salaries paid now. They don’t teach economics and ethics at this school, do they?

    • NateCow says:

      *Applauds* Well said, good sir.

      • Londonist says:

        Oh, very good!

      • Barrycow says:

        belive me.. this is only the tip of the iceberg for this guy. You have no clue who you are dealing with DD all started from a 14 mil. grant to PSL, then givien to John. He now thinks the company is worth 1.475 billion, yes billion. All base on tupac. He is brilliant at paying himself, and BSin everyone else. penny stock in 5 years.

  4. rfk says:

    Ah, the saga of the world’s dumbest IPO. They must be desperate for dollars.

  5. pena says:

    Ouch. Military simulations. I hope idealistic young people are not considering that as their “dream”. Sigh.

  6. Anonomiss says:

    Thank you Mr. Textor for your comments here. I believe that open dialogue and honest comments are the only way to address conflict, in the world and in the world of Visual Effects.

    I do take some issue with some of the things you have said. I worked at DD before your management team came to Venice. DD was a rough and tumble place for awhile. The work was hard and the hours long. I disagreed with management at times, but I found Scott Ross and his team to be fair and concerned. It was hard work as I said, but it was crazy fun. The culture was incredible as were the effects that were produced. DD in the early years was the best experience I’ve had in VFX and many of my coworkers would agree.

    I am interested in the avenues that DDMG is taking in increasing your business, though I find it disingenuous to believe that you are doing so in the interests of America, US jobs, or the industry in general. You seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth… You have or will be opening DD facilities in China, India, Abu Dabi, England and Canada. To me, it seems like you are not looking out for US jobs but you are finding places that will give DD subsidies or other forms of compensation so that you can afford to pay yourself and other managers huge salaries, bonuses and stocks. How do you justify making that salary and bonuses even though your company is losing millions and millions of dollars?
    It looks like you and your cronies are taking the public investor, foreign governments, foreign investors and the state of Florida for a ride to line your pockets. At the same time you are asking students to pay DDI for the chance for working at DD… and as I well know, they will never receive credits on the films they work. I’ve worked on several films that I have not received credits on because Senior Staff ( whatever the hell that is) has taken credits and not given me the credit that I was due. By the way, are you making money on the students too? You seem to have no shame. You take money from everyone and pay yourself millions even though DDMG loses millions AND you start to put real hard working digital artists out of work.

    I for one have no interest in military simulations.. I work in film. I am not interested in furthering the cause of war, I’m interested in using my artistic abilities to make movies, and to help support my children.

    Again thank you for commenting and I would enjoy hearing more from you.

  7. Anon says:

    Lots of great responses here…

    You can put any positive spin you want John, but the bottom line is that using not only free labor, but students paying into your bottom line (!!) is going to have a huge impact on all the studios in the US and their ability to compete. Studios often have to take a loss to land a project. I shudder to think how this will effect their ability to even bid on them. So take a bow for ‘keeping jobs in the US’. You’re actually hurting the entire industry by doing this and it’s incredibly short sighted, if not completely selfish. You will benefit greatly….the rest of us…not so much.

  8. Used to call R&H family...then I woke up says:

    http://www.animationmagazine.net/events/beyond-talking-pigs-and-singing-chipmunks/

    Another studio talking about offices elsewhere….

    “Looking back, Buyyala remembers a time when the senior management had to come to terms that R&H had to take action to be a player on a global level.

    “We realized that the visual effects and animation business was becoming a more international playing field; our own employees were 50 percent from all over the world. We were getting competition from the U.K., Australia and Canada and other regions that offered tax breaks and government incentives. India and China are going to be huge economic markets. So we had to start adapting to the new climate.”

    Buyyala also brings up a certain paradox—that many felt that by growing the studio overseas, a lot of jobs were going to be taken away from Hollywood. But he insists that because the company has been able to keep its doors open and offer competitive prices to the global market, more jobs have been added at the L.A. studio. “Embracing globalization has allowed us to tackle more work and compete against some of those tax incentives,” he says.”

    Really….. I see and heard a LOT of students and “Interns” walking the halls there as well.

    • As someone going on his 14th year at R&H, I call bullshit on “I see (sic) and heard a LOT of students and ‘Interns’ walking the halls there as well.”

      Whatever problems R&H has, exploiting student labor isn’t one of them.

      • maxim311 says:

        ok…maybe not student labor…but ‘apprentices’ as RandH likes to call them are very much exploited.

        They take already talented graduates from school…call them apprentices and pay them crap. Get them to do work on a production…then bump them up to Junior with a couple dollar raise and still pay them crap…well below what they should be making.

        And they keep these people at the company for as long as possible to keep them from knowing how screwed they’re getting on their pay.

      • Can’t speak for all departments, but comp and prep certainly don’t work on productions. I’d be curious to know *who* is working on actual productions, because that’s not cool.

        The apprentice program is a paid 4-6 week program where we put students with little to no experience up in housing if they’re out from out of town, train them on our pipeline and software, and offer *some* jobs afterwards.

        Some people pass when they find out the apprentice rate, some turn our job offer down and go somewhere else, and some stay. Standard negotiations take place for salary at the offer stage.

        Honestly, I doubt our salaries are breaking any records. But we don’t have investors, PS3 sales, or Star Wars merchandise propping us up. But I’d hardly call the apprentice program exploitation.

        “And they keep these people at the company for as long as possible to keep them from knowing how screwed they’re getting on their pay.”

        The regular turnover to other shops would say otherwise.

      • Ymir says:

        Maxim311: Do you mean R&H, or ReelFX?

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        I agree with Brian here. I was at R&H in 2007 and saw the apprentices doing training and some getting offers for junior roles. Were their rate slow? Yes but thats to be expected from juniors. I always thought the apprenticeship is a fair and great opportunity for students/graduates because:
        a) you can prove your good. companys dont need to hire you to find out if you suck
        b) you get to see a studio from the inside and not just indi projects from mandy.com
        c) you get paid something to cover your cost
        d) you have a chance to get hired. this is a WAY bigger foot in the door then say a friend who works at a shop and put in a recommendation.

        Ive seen junior get bumped to mid level after a year and making ok money.

  9. Scott Ross says:

    @Ashes said… “I have worked at DD before and after Ross was there. I find it laughable that the guy who referred to artists as “wrists” and supported the practice of telling people, “Hey, you guys work youselves sick and get 100 finals this week and we’ll buy you a keg of beer” suddenly cares about the artists.”

    Because words are indeed powerful, I have to respond….

    I never supported the practice of encouraging the employees of DD to get sick.

    and the beer part…. I was always in favour of beer…. still am a big beer supporter, it’s our American birthright. But, actually, it was George Lucas, during the post on SW episode 4, that said ” Buy them enough beer and pizza, they will do anything”.

    Additionally, I was the person that coined the phrase “Digital Artist. I’ve always supported the artist, as well as listened to them… in fact, I’ve hired thousands, paid them competitive wages, started hundreds of careers, fostered talent, offered a health plan, and as @Anonomiss said above, helped build a culture that was great fun.

    DD and ILM were a major part of my life… For 20 years I was at the helm of 2 of the top VFX companies in the world. I am very proud of that. It’s unfortunate to see the industry in the state it is today and I continue to hope that an International Trade Association for VFX be put in place.

    I wish John Textor great luck in furthering the Company that I founded.

    • pena says:

      hmm. I seem to remember it was Scott Ross who told Forbes Magazine that the industry needed 16,000 animators next year. This was in ’95 or ’96. That started the craze. It was Forbes careers issue and they mentioned how proud parents were to say their kids did computer graphics, almost as good as being a lawyer with 6 figure incomes. Okay, fair is fair, those at the top think of lowering wages, and that’s what happened after the avalanche of animation schools and eager interns. Please admit though that is exactly why that exaggerated number was put out to the media, salaries were going higher for vfx artists at the time because there were not that many competing for jobs.

      Salaries are still at the level of the mid 1990s when that article came out, or lower, or one ends up working for free thanks to DDI’s latest model… The problem is when you’re young you don’t think that 10 years of hard, and body ruining work in many cases, will leave you with very little — you can’t move up much — only one vfx supe per x number of artists, and there is no union to turn to for protection. So where the suits failed is in their confusion between personal greed and the desire to see the industry grow, this confusion led to a very unhappy situation — a situation where an original American product was diluted, via greed, to be expedient while blind, to be “macho” (the DD culture)..and Americans now suffer, a union would have helped.

      As for DD Florida, who needs them really? The suits are enjoying further millions but the students will get scraps, and the residents in Florida not much more, we don’t need more vfx players, and job competitors, and we don’t need more military simulations of drones so we can blow up people half way around the world. The military budget needs to be reduced, and Americans need to have security in the workplace.

      • Scott Ross says:

        @pena… your memory serves you well… sorta.

        I did tell many that the industry back in 1995 needed VFX workers, though I’m not sure I said 16,000. I did however say ” Don’t let your children grow up to be lawyers, let them grow up to be VFX artists!”.

        The reason I said that was because at the time VFX artists were scarce… it was 1995/6 and there were several new VFX houses. One in particular was hiring like crazy, and paying quite well. In the mid ’90’s DD needed a bunch of talent and my hope was that we cold hire and train newbies. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

        I can assure you it was not for the nefarious reasons you state….

      • Londonist says:

        I am not familiar with American Unions but is there a general workers union that people could join? My understanding is that if then the union gets enough vfx artist on it’s books it can open a vfx branch.

    • Ashes says:

      Yes, Lucas said that quote, but you let Nancy give the keg incentives. Everyone knew getting those type of finals a week would result in massive over time hours. Hell, I remember when I was there I worked a few 100+ hours weeks.

      As for listening to the artists, I’m sure you did sometimes, especially with certain artists. You might have coined the phrase, Digital Artists, but there were other names used as well.

      I seem to remember people getting quite pissed off at DD when they asked for raises and were told they could just fire them and hire someone else at a lower rate. Now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you for all of that, but it did happen at DD under your watch. Just like the massive lay offs after Titanic. Not your fault if the company didn’t have work, but please, the way you are portraying yourself as this selfless leader of workers rights is a tad hard to take seriously.

      However, you are an innovator, a hardworker, and you have a vision. If this is your new calling then, hey, please run with it. I think a trade organization is a fantastic idea and I do think you have the ability pull it off, if you want to do it. You are in a unique position to be the one that leads it. I do think if anyone could do it, you could.

      • Scott Ross says:

        @Ashes… the kegs were offered as thanks and moral boosters… Maybe you don’t like beer?

        One of the many problems in running a VFX studio is the studios inability to control the director and the motion picture studios. If it was up to me, no one would have worked any overtime…. it costs too much. Had I been able to control directors, and their whims…. there would not have been layoffs after TITANIC! Hell, I still might be running a VFX house!!!

        If you get the feeling that I am, as you say, portraying myself as “the selfless leader of workers rights”… you got it all wrong. What I am about is fairness… taking care of artists AND making sure the VFX studios are run like a profitable business. They must go hand in glove…. for if they don’t, there will be a bunch of unemployed artists ( as companies will be forced out of business) and a bunch of upset shareholders/investors and owners. It’s all about an ecosystem that works.

    • jonavark says:

      The boasting is beyond silly. Please.. if you can.. keep it to yourself. The past is over and you can’t get anywhere continually boasting about it. If you’re such a visionary fix the future. Otherwise.. enough of the hot air.

      • Scott Ross says:

        @jonavark… I agree… lets get something done…. are you in? send me an email… it’s rossscott1@me.com

      • jonavark says:

        Yes.. I think I have stated many times, here and elsewhere that I am available to do whatever is necessary. Though you have already made it clear, elsewhere, that I am not able to help you and that you were offended by my random thoughts on other subjects. So I ended up here trying to find out how to cut the talk and start the action. I can’t contribute financially but I am an experienced leader and a no BS kind of guy.

        Playing devil’s advocate in online discussions isn’t easy. Asking questions and getting real answers isn’t easy. But that’s how I refine my conclusions about everything.

        What I don’t understand is why you got out of the business. It seems to me you miss the action and the hustle.

      • Scott Ross says:

        I got out of the business for personal reasons…. and the other owners of DD wanted to get out as well. I mos def to not miss the craziness of it all… yet, I spent most of my professional career in it… and today, it is a mess. I believe I can be of service… and for that I am excited.

        send me an email…. lets talk about how we can solve these issues.

        S

      • Londonist says:

        Fair trade vfx anyone? Remember Foxconn?

  10. GetReal says:

    WOW! This is outstanding stuff. The ego and fear is just amazing. Textor and the Fla crew are smart on one respect, they know how dumb and gullible the electorate is in Florida, and they know how easily bought the politicians are. Florida is the perfect place for this, the snake oil they sell is perfect. The fat cats will get fatter, students will have massive loan debt, tax payers will be juiced up on drugs in the old folks home and wont give shit. Man, throw Dan Marino, James Cameron name, Hollywood, and all the idiots in Florida will line up to give blood. It’s brilliant, in a scam sort of way.

    Textor could give a massive shit about jobs, he’s lining his pockets, period. I’m curious, how many scholarships do you offer in your name?

    Mr. Ross’ hand in this game is interesting. On one hand it is great to have the voice, on the other it often comes off the he is very miffed about being often not mentioned as a founder etc. As per his post here. So, no matter how much truth to power he speaks, it is all a bit white washed with his seemingly bruised ego. I meant that with all do respect of course.

    I worked at DD for years and on some small level it is no different than now. It was a frat house boys club then, it is now, just more money and less alcohol.

    If this industry has any hope of survival, then it will need a serious, tough, hard nose leader or leaders to step out of the shadows and make shit happen. I hope that happens. Sadly, I don’t think anyone gives a shit, and the fat cats making bank on the backs of students and tax payers all know it.

    Mark my words, this will all fall apart, Florida will be fucked, FSU will be fucked, students will be fucked. Textor and his crew? Drinking champagne while on the DD yacht in the inter coastal waterway, docked outside the WASP’s only Palm Beach country club.

    My advise to students? Learn a real trade. Digital Effects/Animation are dying, and dying fast.

    We are fucked!

  11. Overit says:

    BOYCOTT ENDERS GAME and all other DD productions!

  12. As an employee when Scott Ross was at the helm I can say I worked long hours. I can also say that the “keg” thing was for morale not an incentive. We worked and we got PAID to do so. We got overtime. Doing kick ass work and making sure things were on point was my motivator, as it was for many of my peers. As a compositor I sent back CGI renders. Quality was key.
    Oh also, DD NEVER EVER missed a paycheck. Doing that is impressive.
    Our industry is doing strange things. How do you keep work in the US? Do excellent work as that’s what it comes down to sometimes. Do it for a fair price. Be nice and accommodating with your clients, to a point. Be collaborative. Find ways to be more effective in your job. Work hard. Be persistent. The last guy that told me that has an Oscar.

    Own. The. Work.

    • nofool says:

      I was at DD the same time as you Rob, and have been there under the new management. I don’t know where you get such amazing memories of the Scot Ross days. My rate was less than 1/2 of what it was at any other job, I got zero benefits in the many years that I worked there, foreign workers were held hostage with rates just above minimum wages and work visas they could not escape. Also, we had plenty of interns working for free at that time too.

      There are plenty of issues with the new management, trust me. But lets not pretend that Scott was a hero. I would say that off all the places I have worked, the employee abuse was highest at DD under Scott. Today, he has done now is transfer all of his grudges against Cameron to Textor. He has become irrelevant in the industry and is trying desperately to change that.

      • Ashes says:

        Totally agree with everything you said nofool, as I too had a front row seat to it. I was also at DD when Ross was running it and under the new management and feel the same way.

        Rob, I respect you, but you were buddies with the boys club, of course you had a good time. Everyone else, not so much.

        Sorry, but not missing a payroll is not something special, companies aren’t supposed to miss payrolls. I’ve worked several other major fx house and they didn’t miss payrolls either.

      • Don’t get me wrong, there were issues back then. If you worked with me on Stealth you will know quite a bit of my career saga there. I had plenty of battles to get what I wanted, believe me. The issues I had were not with Scott, but I am not here to rake muck on individuals.
        It’s a shame you guys/gals don’t want to use your names as you have valid points and are speaking as adults. This kind of discourse turns out better companies. Hell, I am sure I’d remember you, even with the multiple kegs in my brain.
        Any job/company/situation is as good as you make it. I did some really stupid shit and had issues because of it. Would I do the same thing today? Potentially yes in some cases and no in others. Ashes, if you knew me from the early days of my employment you’d know I was not part of any boys club, whatever that is. I broke the system often and questioned decisions continuously. I suggest you all do this. If you do it in a respectful manner you’ll end up getting positive results. This is something I learned much later and after I had left DD.
        Personally, I’d still like to know from John T. what the deal is with saying he wants to keep US jobs but opens Canadian, Chinese, and Indian offices. I have a feeling that I know the answer and it will be purely a business decision but it would be nice to know. I am not a stock holder so he has zero reason to disclose anything but it would be nice if for no other reason than to learn more about managing a large company.
        Nofool and Ashes, since I’d like to know whom I am speaking with feel free to contact me via my website http://throb.net just to let me know who you are.

      • Oh also, I remember that free interns were ok for many years. The California labor law did not require them to be paid. Then the law changed. I am assuming that DD and any other real company is following the labor law in these cases. I know the interns we’re going to bring in from my USC class will be paid.
        Yes we’re hiring pros but I actually want to help train some people as well since I’ve been teaching them.

      • Scott Ross says:

        @nofool… this is becoming foolish…. I must however ask… if you were so abused ( which I can’t imagine) why did you work at DD for half your normal salary? Why did you not get any benefits when others did? ….

      • @Scott to be fair the DD salaries were not the major draw to working at DD. When I had a major issue with my salary I negotiated. You learn things :)

        As for the lack of benefits, I would imagine that this person was not a staff artist and was a freelance hire.

      • Ashes says:

        @Throb, I never said you were part of the club, just buddies with them. :)

        Look, I know you had issues with DD and were willing to stick your neck out, thus my respect for you. However, the guys there liked you as a fun person to partying and hang out together. There was a larger tolerance that you got.

        The reason for my anonymity is because I’ve seen what happens to people who are labored “whiners,” “troublemakers,” or my favorite “too negative.” Unsurprisingly, the people labeled this are often pointing out the flaws in facilities and houses. I also fine dialogue more honest and open when people aren’t quite sure who they are talking to. It’s a great insight on how people treat others.

        As I said before, I really do respect you and what you have accomplished since moving on from DD. So, keep up the great work.

      • @Ashes
        It’s this level of real adult responses makes me want to know who I am talking to. Send me a note just so I know. Now I know we must have worked together for a while. Hey I am hiring soon. Drop me a line. I want whining and bitching. That means shit is broken. We fix it and get better.

      • Scott Ross says:

        Rob… I never said we paid top dollar… we couldn’t compete w the likes of SPI…all I was saying is that if @nofool wasn’t happy with his deal at DD, why complain about 10 years after the fact?… why didn’t he just go work for Sony or some other house that was paying more? There must have been some reason why he stayed… contrary to some on this blog, I read the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution!

  13. John Textor says:

    Wow – miserable stuff. Some of you guys have definitely given up the high road. You just don’t know me at all…and you don’t know what I care about. It must be a great feeling to feel so sure about things that you would speak so ill of people that you have never met. After one day of sharing ideas on this site, I think I’ll retire. I am no match for anonymous venom.

    My offer still stands. We could benefit from the advice of the responsible few that are on this board. Call me anytime. 772-345-8100

    Goodnight!…John Textor

  14. John, the one thing I would ask if you are able to, is to speak about your comments regarding jobs in the US. You have mentioned that you want to keep jobs in the US but are simultaneously opening up studios in other countries.
    Since I am not a CEO, nor do I run a VFX company, much less one as large as DD I would like some education and information if you’re open to it.

  15. Anon CG pro says:

    Hey John,

    As a CG pro working on features still paying off a large loan I got to study CG after many years in the game, are you considering the cost to benefit ratio of your future courses, from the perspective of the student?

    Do you really think the astronomical expense will be worth it for the majority of people who take your courses? Most CG pros consider CG education in general to be a complete joke (because it is), and most CG schools provide a poor quality product for inflated prices.

    I would bet a months salary the marketing for your new course will focus on training and potential job opportunities in feature films, and not military or medical simulation. You will do this because you know the vast majority of those who would pay you $105,000 (for non-residents) will do so chasing the dream of working on feature films, and not medical or military simulations.

    Here is a quote from your recent speech:
    “…but by your Junior and Senior year at the college, you’re working on real firms (films), as part of the professional workflow, and you graduate with a resume that has five major films, your name in the credits, and more than just an intership level of experience, then that’s the perfect kind of trade off.”

    This claim caught my eye, as many artists in the film industry have experienced not being credited for a major show they worked on. Some have experienced this repeatedly, even as mid and senior artists. I find it highly unlikely that anyone will graduate from a DD course with 5 film credits, which begs the question why you made this claim. This seems like very wishful thinking at best and delusion at worst.

    Here is a quick recap of what you have said earlier in this blog regarding student work opportunities on DD films:

    “a student won’t touch a frame under this idea until that are at least third year, after two solid years of training in our program…and only after they have performed well in general education requirements for their degree. ”

    What you seem to be saying here is that not every student will touch frames. If I am wrong in this interpretation please feel free to correct me. I that is what you’re saying, this wouldn’t surprise me or anyone else reading this because we all know the idea of every student working and being credited on real films is highly unrealistic, but my first concern is how honest you are going to be about that when marketing this course to aspiring artists?

    Can you give us an assurance here and now, that you will market your course to students being upfront about the fact that only a certain percentage of students will actually work on real films as part of the course? Or will you guys chase the $$$ like 99% of CG schools out there and then over-promise and under-deliver and to hell with the kids who graduate unemployable with huge debts? Will you suggest to aspiring CG artists, that they will all get work and credits on flims if they enroll in your course?

    Please be honest with people when you sell this program. I have seen a great many talented and vibrant young people crushed by shitty training and a huge debt that essentially torpedoed their hopes of working in VFX, after their school led them down the garden path promising the world and delivering very substandard training that led in circles or was actually counter-productive. Wages are not so great in this industry to allow a 100+k load to be easily paid off. Or even a 50k one. Please if you really care about American jobs and American people don’t let the DD school be another vampire liar that takes people’s money without helping them see the road ahead and preparing them for it from day 1.

    We have about 10’000 such schools already.

    My apologies if this post comes across as cynical and suspicious, I was genuinely impressed at the fact you posted your # and you are open to a LA meetup. However most CG pros were shafted in school and the faith doesn’t exist that any new school, including yours, will be any different. It’s not personal, it’s just our understanding of the reality of the CG education business.

    Thanks in advance for any response. Please let me assure you I would appreciate one.

  16. jonavark says:

    Mr. Textor is legitimizing what seems to me to be a desperate measure.

    Perhaps it is time for other VFX schools to begin doing feature films then?

    I thought the massive use of “interns” was bad form. But this , now matter how you cut it, is reprehensible.

  17. vfxguy says:

    Mr. Textor as you stated “we don’t know you” and we can certainly say you don’t know us based on some off your business decisions and statements and what today’s vfx artist and their families have to contend with.

    Perhaps the lack of shortage of qualified artist DD Florida is encountering may be an indication that more and more seasoned artist are less inclined to pack-up the family once again just to work in a potentially poor work situation.

    Your choice for a solution has taken a road that does not necessarily help the current state of the industry but add to the problem. These choices are strictly for maximize profit margin and less about improvement and diluting the industry into nothing more then warm bodies in front of a computer.
    If the tax break in Florida is structured anything like Canada meaning more artist equals more tax breaks from each individual artist which helps offset some major labor costs !

    Its too bad DD did not take this opportunity to assess the current situation and listened to artist and be the first to change or at best make provisions towards improvement.

    these are knee jerk reaction you are seeing from many artist so don’t expect it to be sugar coated.

  18. Johnny says:

    Hey John Textor, I’m a character designer/animator with a master’s degree in computer animation and over 8 years of experience. I need a job as a character designer, storyboard artist, concept artist, or character animator… Will you hire me or do I have to sign up for the college?

  19. MC1 says:

    I have a few quick questions for Mr. Textor. First, thanks for joining the discussion. In your comment, you said that:

    “…Full Sail has 12,000 students…hundreds graduate each month…the jobs are just not there to support that…we were only able to hire three Full Sail grads out of our first three hundred hires in Florida.

    The Digital Domain Institute is intended to go way beyond VFX in film and games. Thousands of jobs are available in industries that would kill to benefit from the best of VFX artists that otherwise will lose their jobs if nothing changes. ”

    So, what you’re saying is:

    – there just aren’t enough jobs for people who want to be VFX workers in film/animation/games here in the U.S. This is true.

    – There ARE jobs for these people in medical visualization jobs, military jobs, and other, non-entertainment industries. This is probably true, but I don’t know enough about the field to speak knowledgeably about it. Maybe there are.

    Here are my questions:

    1. How is training your students in a film production environment going to prepare them for jobs in the medical/military/non-entertainment industries? Shouldn’t DD be partnering with the military, or with, perhaps, Florida radiologists?

    2. If there aren’t enough jobs out there for VFX artists, why is DD getting into the business of making MORE artists? I assume it’s because there’s good money to be made, but it’s not good for the industry.

    One more point: I don’t think there’s any such thing as “making” jobs. London and Vancouver haven’t created new jobs, they are just taking the jobs that used to be in the U.S. and bringing them to London and Vancouver. DD isn’t going to create new jobs.

  20. jonavark says:

    Mr. Textor

    I think you need to be a little more patient. You won’t be treated here as you might be in a board room and you’ll need to take time and express yourself, sometimes repeatedly to accomplish your goals of defining your stand on these issues.

    Frankly, what you do with your company isn’t anyone’s business but your own and that of your shareholders. If it fails someone will take your place. So I am fine with that. But in general I have to say that on first impression this does appear to be somewhat of a curious move on DD’s part.

    Many of us have been conditioned to feel that industry executives have been taking advantage of labor and artists for some time now. Though, starting in the early 80’s in VFX I saw many of the same issues I see today.

    The truth is that many of the VFX jobs can , in fact, be done by low skilled labor. When I started roto artists were covered in india ink, wore white gloves and worked on downshooters that I developed control systems for.. so they worked like tape decks. But the skill set was impressive. All hand work and a lot of re-working until things were as good as they could be. Kinda miss those days actually! The smell of burning stepper motors.

    The point is that, just like many industries where technology made the job easier, it also made the work lower paying and eliminated the necessity for highly skilled people. So the wages go down. Editing is a perfect example.

    So I believe that these students will be involved in the work at DD on a greater level than you may be projecting. Which is what makes this hybrid school/vfx facility a hot issue. Not calling you a liar but just reacting from experience.

    I applaud you for coming into the lion’s den and posting. Everyone here, disparaging comments aside, is concerned and wants to be part of the solution. Most of these folks are far more conversant and educated about economics and the plight of the industry than I am. But some things are just common sense.

    If you can help Scott, or anyone, make progress on a trade association it would be a positive step in the right direction.

  21. jonavark says:

    OH.. on the subject of military simulations. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if I am working on a movie or a military sim. The work is the same, in fact a little more fun than working on some movies. I mean.. you work a year on a feature and it bombs.. it wasn’t a good movie anyway.. so what’s the dif? It’s the process that I enjoy anyway. While writing software for some mil aircraft display systems I found the people much more honest and easier to get along with than the usual ego driven hollywood types. And that’s what counts to me above and beyond some unfathomable temporary glory of the box office.

  22. […] The “Paying To Work For Free” VFX Business Model Questions And Reactions: Paying To Work For Free LA Times Report On Digital Domain Institute […]

  23. Tony says:

    VFX soldier, please keep up the great work! Thank you very much for these articles!

  24. Yannick says:

    What will happen to the student when they graduate? Replaced by another student. So very few will actually get a job out of this. If other companies start the same business model, the market will be flooded with junior artist.

  25. Dan Delapena says:

    very interesting read, thanks guys.

  26. scruffySurfer says:

    @John – Please don’t be discouraged by the negative attitudes. I second the “thank you” from Dave Rand in regards to posting on an open forum and taking the time to write and attempt to engage with the vfx community. I’m also very appreciative of Throb and Ashes for trying to keep this whole thing out of high school. If artists don’t want to be replaced by kids stop acting like them.
    I’ve been at Digital Domain for longer than I’d care to admit and what a roller coaster it’s been. I look back on the Scott Ross / Nancy days as fond memories although I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d feel that way. I understand things have to change and we have to grow to compete. I’m grateful to have a check which clears twice a month and know how hard that is to make happen. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the industry and where DD is going with all the “crazy” happening lately. I still laugh every time I hear “Digital Domain Park” from a baseball announcer.
    My take is that the biggest difference between the old days of DD and the new DD is a sense that someone behind the velvet ropes actually cares about the people working here. You don’t get into this industry thinking you’ll work an 8 hour day and get home before the sun sets (unless you’re in Vancouver… ). The reason we took all the crap was because we were all part of a team, we all enjoyed working with each other and for the supervisors. The projects were cool and we felt like we contributed. Scott Ross was a face, here, in Venice and we saw him and Nancy all the time. If you didn’t like it you left, found that it’s the same everywhere and eventually returned (usually at a higher rate).
    I’ve spoken with many people that work out in dreamland (aka Florida) and they all say John Textor is a great guy. That you walk around, talk with people and seem to care about what’s going on. I can tell you first hand this is not the feeling in Venice about you and especially about the other “global executives”.
    There seems to be a HUGE disconnect between the artists in Venice and the executives. We feel lied to, used, abused and uncared for. Massive amounts of work (thankfully) continue to be booked with no regards for how it will get done. We keep being told that there is no money for raises/401k/stock options (being honored) but then watch million dollar salaries and huge bonuses go out to people we barely ever see. We get dragged away into a small, hot, uncomfortable “screening warehouse” with dripping ceilings for two hours so that you and the other “Global” exec’s can brag about your soccer fields, brand new buildings and new titles. We listen to you tell us how you’re moving our jobs out of the country and your no “dick head” policy and we’re supposed to be excited? It seems that you and all the other higher ups have completely turned there backs on the people who built DD and are expected to actually finish all the work you’re booking.
    You should seriously take Ashes advice about black sheep. One thing Scott Ross was great at was understanding how with a strong core group of staff artists you could grow and shrink and accomplish anything. That strong core group (or what is left of it) is made up of the people who will have no problem going out and getting other work. These are the work horses, the small group of guys (and girls) who come in, put there heads down and produce more work in a day than the other 5 people sitting next to them. They aren’t always supervisors/leads and you may not even know who there names because most of the time they would rather do the work than spending there whole day running around telling everyone how great they are. You want to keep these people, however you and especially the other people running Venice don’t seem to care.
    I feel like now I’m getting negative. I don’t want to come off that way. There are great things about DD too and like I said before there are issues anywhere you go. I’m a disgruntled Venice employee but I see promise in what’s going on. DD has it’s own way of weeding out the dick heads (for the most part, some just won’t go away) and it always has. Things will even out and everything will find it’s place. You can either go with the flow and be happy or bitch and complain and be angry all the time. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that the machine doesn’t care which you are so the only one you’re hurting is yourself.
    If you’re good enough at what you do then no matter if DD succeeds or explodes you’re going to land on your feet right? If things get that bad here, there is a lot of work out there.. heck you’ll most likely get a better position and be paid more, so why worry? When everyone that can actually “do” the work leaves will it teach DD a lesson? Sure but at that point what would it matter? I just wish the moral in Venice could go up a little and that it would feel like what we did mattered like it used to… be it an illusion or not.
    It wouldn’t take that much. Some honesty from the upper ranks, more than one thing of plain cream cheese on bagel day (wtf with the honey almond and strawberry) and not having to prove how much another facility values your worth to get more money when negotiating your rate. (A keg or two wouldn’t hurt every so often…. I like beer).
    What about starting by being upfront with everyone about the upcoming move? We all know it’s happening… what would it hurt to keep people in the loop? Man, I remember back at R&H they used to get everyone together once a month and practically go over the books. I don’t think we need that kind of transparency but it would be nice not to feel like you’ve just had sunshine blown up your A for an hour. Have you noticed that the only people who still attend the monthly (yearly) meetings are those who haven’t been to more than one of them? Does it escape anyones attention that people basically don’t care about monthly screenings or the lame half ass attempts at parties DD throws? No one wants to see anyones work at monthlies because no one is part of “Team DD” anymore. Ever since specific groups and producers took over it’s every show for itself and there are many “dick head” people who make sure it stays that way.

  27. billyshakes1492 says:

    did john t come from the vfx world or just another bean counter… damn beans…

  28. Anonomiss says:

    Yesterday I asked Mr. Textor a few questions on this site. I still have not received any answers. I’d like to ask a few others:

    1. Please address the statement that you want to keep jobs here in the USA while you have facilities in India, China, England, Canada, Australia and soon to be the UAE?

    2. How do you substantiate making $16 million while the company you run has lost $140 million?

    3. How much money has DDMG taken from the citizens of Florida?

    4. What was your experiences before being DD’s CEO? Do you have any background in film, visual effects or post production?

    5. Please explain how DDMG made money in its 4th quarter?

    6. How will you insure that these “free labor” students will get the film credits that you say they will get?

    7. How much of the money that DDMG received from grants and subsidies goes towards the losses in other facilities outside of Florida?

    8. Is Michael Bay still an owner of DD?

    9. Has DD had any revenue coming from these new sectors of businesses that you are excited about… Medical or Military sims?

    10. Do you have any political aspirations?

  29. sahm says:

    It hurts me to hear John say that “free labor is better…” OUCH! I’ve met John many times and am a bit shocked that he would say these things. He’s actually a really nice guy and I believe that he started out with good intentions, but now, dunno’, his statements are crushing. If John happened to read this, I would tell him that the check engine light is on and that it’s time to visit a real mechanic. It’s time to think with the heart…

  30. Chatterbrew says:

    We are happy to have moved here to PSL and work at the Tradition Studios! People are grateful to be working right now, yep hundreds are employed!!! So regardless of anything, he’s made jobs and that’s what matters. He’s trying to do good things.

  31. Andreas Jablonka says:

    Im sure he is nice but he is an investment banker not a film guy. can he be nice? sure? did he create (pay-less) jobs? yes. will these jobs cannibalize other jobs? for sure. but then you guys are just for yourselves in florida, you have nowhere else to work. i understand that buts its this kind of “everyone for themselves” thinking thats keeping us from uniting and unionizing!

  32. […] week Digital Domain’s CEO was actively answering questions on VFXSoldier’s website in the comments section and offered up his time if anyone wanted to talk to […]

  33. scruffySurfer says:

    We had a pretty great Q&A today with John in Venice. Lot’s of questions we’re answered and people generally seem to feel better. The only two downfalls seem to be the continued disconnect by Venice executives who think 30 min is enough to discuss the concerns we all have and the rather stupid line of questioning that came from one person in Vancouver. John seemed very in touch and genuinely upset that the first group was cut off. The highlight was hearing him smack down the angry guy in Vancouver.

    • I love it when management treats the employees like the adults that they are. Kudos.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        John DID say we are encouraged to ask any questions we have and should not fear getting fired over t. He suggested saying “my friend has this question..” if we are afraid. Its great of him to face the music this way, kudos for that John!

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      Well I think you do drink the koolaid a bit too much. If dodging questions is smacking down, consider me smacked. I applaud John for facing us but do feel the questions were rather tame. I am amazed that he can say “I dont want to grow vfx” and nobody roars against that. Sure we all know the margins are thin and looking for different opportunities to make money is a good move. His interest in military and medical contracts can proof right and I even agree that coproductions are a good way to go.

      What he has not addressed however was my question if the florida money is meant to offset the balance sheets of the other offices. He went into a big tirade of financing details. fact is that florida invest 130$mio according to some sources and it only cost little over 10% of that to actually open the facility. Im asking where all that money goes.

      Anyway Id be interesting to hear more thoughts on todays discussion by other DD employees.

  34. billyshakes1492 says:

    Andreas the money from offices in Florida, London (partnership with Reliance india) and China offset John’s accounts and no one else’s account.

  35. […] Ross had advocated for the formation of a trade organization yet it seems no one has called him back. In the interview Mr. Textor says the VES should be fixing these problems. Look if the recent […]

  36. Barrycow says:

    Its so funny reading about you guys out there finally catching on. I watched him BS the local city itno giving him millions in grant money. Had the local paper squash all editorials about him. Any negative comment was put away. So corrupt. Yet he convinced them that he was in the movie business and was going to make Port Saint Lucie the next hollywood. As quick as he could, went public, paid himself huge in stock…. ANd here we are. He is a venture capitalist LIAR. Just like Romney. In your face, they show you how much they care, Love, and want to help everyone. All the time pocketing money and then its “OH well, I did what I could” 100 years ago he would be tarred and feather, plus whipped in public.
    Pt it this way, before he scammed Port Saint Lucie, he could not even get a baby product website to make money. What do you think will happen to this one. Once all the grant money & Investor money is gone. poof, he’ll be gone..
    He doesn’t care a lick… Isnt it amazing that you can go to an Ivy league school and not do anything REAL. Just learn all the in’s and out’s of finance, stocks, trading, filings, and creating many companies, plus moving money in and out. And never spend a dime of your own money….
    Amazing ! Smartest Crook I know. But you cant call him that because our system allows it.

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