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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, 1100 New York Ave NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005.
August 15, 2014
I flew to Siggraph in Vancouver to attend an ADAPT Q&A with Scott Ross. While I didn’t count the exact number of people there about half of the 100-seat room was filled. I gave an overview of the anti-subsidy duty legal effort we were pursuing and then we answered everyone’s questions.
Throughout the trip and at the meeting, I had a chance to meet all kinds of people across the spectrum of visual effects. Given how critical I have been of Vancouver’s VFX subsidies, I was a bit surprised to see how receptive people were to what we were trying to do. I also had a chance to people’s stories which you might be interested in reading about.
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August 14, 2014
One of the big pieces of news that came out of Siggraph was David Cohen’s piece in Variety that LookFX was folding:
Look officially ceased operations doors Monday and its staff is already at work at Mass Market. LookFX partners Henrik Fett and Mark Driscoll will be co-managing directors of Mass Market’s feature division. They will report to Jay Lichtman, managing director of MassMarket.
I was sent an email from a group of former LookFX artists who wanted to share their side of the story which is posted below:
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