September 2, 2014
If you read through the posts on this blog about film subsidies one trend should be abundantly clear:
Hollywood studios will take one government’s offer and game it against others in the hopes of increasing and maximizing the total amount of free taxpayer money available. So no sooner than a few days after film and VFX workers celebrated the passage of CA film subsidy bill AB1839, the MPAA will be looking to meet with other states to increase the stakes:
Well, that’s certainly looks like a kick in the teeth to the home of Hollywood. Just days after the state Senate voted overwhelming to increase and expand California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $330 million for the next five years, the MPAA has announced it is hosting a shindig in the nation’s capitol to help other states compete.
You’d think the state of Louisiana which offers a 30% film subsidy would be on solid ground but even they lose out as studios will take their offer and game them against international governments agreeing to give even more free money. Can you see how this is a race to the bottom? In order to win you have to be willing to be the biggest loser and even then, it’s expected that you keep raising the stakes. It’s also not cheap as the LA Times questions the cost effectiveness of these programs.
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August 27, 2014
The VFX Progress Group will be having a BBQ that anyone is invited to attend. I will be there to answer any questions and help lobby for support of ADAPT’s legal effort:
Veterans Memorial Park
4117 Overland Ave
Culver City, CA 90230
Sunday, September 7, 2014
from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM (PDT)
Register here to attend
There is also a list of items that we should all chip in to bring:
To have access to the list you’ll need to email firstname.lastname@example.org
We had a BBQ before the March in March and it was quite fun just to catch up with people face to face. Hope to see you there.
August 26, 2014
Big news came last week as CA bill AB1839 was amended:
An amendment to proposed legislation to expand California’s film and TV tax credit urges trade action as a response to countries that have lured visual effects firms away with the promise of generous subsidies.
Huge thanks to everyone who helped and Assemblymember Mike Gatto for standing up to the studios and writing a provision into a bill he co-authored supporting out effort. While it’s a huge step in the right direction, I obviously have issues with the subsidies in the bill and was hoping that the trade provision had more teeth to it.
When our law firm helped the shrimping industry get trade relief from injurious subsidies, the government of Louisiana actually helped fund the legal effort. Since our legal effort costs a fraction of what the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies needed, we felt it would’ve been a small cost that could lead to a more effective outcome.
August 25, 2014
So much news about Prime Focus, so little time! I have yet to post my thoughts on the Double Negative purchase which I hope to do at some point. Last year I posted about Digital Domain investing about $18 million for an equity stake in Enders Game which opened with $27M and ended with $61M domestically.
I also signaled a potential sequel where Prime Focus would invest about $19M for a stake in Sin City 2 and the result doesn’t look good. ‘Sin City 2’ Distributor: ‘It’s Like The Ice Bucket Challenge Without The Good Cause’:
Sin City 2 didn’t even crack the top five at the box office over the weekend. The film opened in the number eight slot with $6.4 million. Other new releases that opened with it included the football drama When the Game Stands Tall and the Chloe Grace Moretz feature If I Stay. Those films opened respectively at number five with $9 million and number three with $16.8 million.
Of course this has continued to be the story for most VFX facilities that try to take an equity stake (Rhythm: Yogi Bear, Dneg: Rush) in a film. I doubt studios would offer a VFX facility an equity stake if they were confident the film was going to do gangbusters but that’s just me
August 18, 2014
After my last post I received two emails from former Digital Domain 2.0 CEO John Textor. The contents of both emails were the same and posted below. The only difference between the two emails was the first one was sent with the subject “Blog” and the second was sent 15 minutes later with the subject “Private and Confidential”. I never agreed to any personal confidentiality with John Textor and given the abrasive nature of the contents I felt a response was merited on my blog:
Daniel…I understand that you are blogging about me again. Wow.
Last time around, while I was borrowing against my home to make your payroll, you did everything you could to attack me and the Florida business that was desperately trying to support the losses of Venice and your way of life. You can thank me anytime by the way.
You created a great deal of discomfort for me and many of your co-workers…and you were stupid enough to actually think you were righting a wrong, understanding nothing about the economics of the company that fed you and the people that risked everything to keep you comfortable. Let me guess, you are one of the geniuses that actually believes the California office of DD was thriving and covering its own payroll while Florida was siphoning off the profits.
Back then, I offered the unidentified Soldier an interview to help you understand the finer points of our business that you clearly did not understand…still do not understand…and you turned me down. You said it was your policy not to conduct interviews…after I was later surprised to learn that you were one of my employees, I realized that your Policy was to hide in the cubicle that I paid for, hope no one would notice and keep taking money from me for as long as you could while you stood strong in protest…anonymously of course. A fine employee you were indeed.
You are a coward Daniel. You didn’t have the courage to speak with your own voice until it felt really safe to do so. You didn’t even have the courage to raise your hand and question our programs during employee meetings…or send me an email as your CEO suggesting your shame in taking a paycheck from such an immoral company. If you had a righteous bone in your body, you would have walked out.
Seriously Daniel, I am looking for that thank you…and my wife and kids would like an apology. If not, maybe just return the money I paid you while you sold your loyalty for the celebrity of an anonymous blog.
One last thing…your recent blog continues to mischaracterize early emails, resulting in materially false and misleading statements. You have also now challenged the integrity of the Pulse team that has accurately portrayed the experience of its artists on the Pulse website. Be careful. Now that you are an accomplished and known publisher, I look forward to holding you responsible for truth and accuracy.
Feel free to call me at anytime if you think I am wrong about you…John Textor
August 16, 2014
Looks like the saga of John Textor continues. When Digital Domain went down and took Florida taxpayers for a $100 million bath I speculated that it would become an election issue. Well current Governor Rick Scott will be taking on the previous Governor Charlie Crist who presided over the Digital Domain deal. It seems the Scott administration would like to utilize an investigation on the Digital Domain bankruptcy to potentially target Crist:
The script had the makings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster: greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience willing to suspend belief. In the real world, there was no Hollywood happy ending. The hero did not save the day. The villain was not defeated. Instead, the story ended with Florida taxpayers being cheated out of over $80 million dollars.
John Textor has since moved on to help start a new VFX company called Pulse (which shouldn’t be confused with the UK firm Pulse VFX of course). There was a bit of controversy in social media circles as Pulse seemed to take credit for work the company did not do like Avatar, X-Men, Tron, and others but who cares these days right?
Well now John Textor has a blog to set the record straight:
John Textor and his team were able to rebuild the reputation of the studio and expand its profits. The ultimately revitalized Digital Domain received the industry’s highest honor, the “Best Visual Effects” Oscar for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2009. It was during this period that the idea of expanding beyond just being a “gun for hire studio” and moving into the “Pixar” model of being the creative team/studio behind the films emerged.
As I pointed out on my blog years ago, John Textor privately warned of a “train wreck” pertaining to the Florida deal.
“At this point, I am fairly certain that a train wreck is coming,” Textor wrote in an email to Stork on Feb. 9, 2010. “I have no choice but to deal with it because of the promises I have made to the state of Florida. I HAVE to deliver jobs.”
But who cares! Forget about those pesky facts. Remember it’s all about the love for the VFX industry!
August 15, 2014
I haven’t had a chance to post about the recent news concerning collusion but I have been speaking with counsel about the matter. One firm has been trying to get more information about the issue and I asked them if they could provide me with some info to pass along to readers:
Did you work at a visual effects or animation studio between 2004 and 2010? You may have been underpaid. We’re looking for people who worked at any of the following studios:
- Digital Domain
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
- Sony Picture Imageworks
- Blue Sky Studios
- Pixar (non-salaried employees only)
- Lucasfilm (non-salaried employees only)
If you’re interested in participating in a lawsuit against DreamWorks and other studios for conspiring to suppress the wages of animators and visual effects artists, or if you have information about that conspiracy, please contact attorney Jeff Dubner at 202-589-2285 or email@example.com.
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, 1100 New York Ave NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005.