Anyone interested in working in VFX should be reading the blog of former ILM General Manager and Digital Domain Founder Scott Ross.
He has posted a 2 part piece about the events that led to him leaving ILM.
Here are a few reactions I had:
You’d figure Scott Ross would be on a first name basis with George Lucas. Not the case:
In the years I worked at LucasFilm, I only spoke to George a handful of times. But seeing him there eating his enchilada with Amanda, I just had to come over and say something. After all, my over all experiences at ILM and LFL were great and if it wasn’t for George, my world, and indeed the world, would not have been the same. So…I cautiously approached. He looked up at me, and I said ” Thanks George for all that you and ILM have done for me and my family”, and George looked at me, with a blank stare and said ” Sure…. by the way, what’s your name?”
Many artists come into the vfx industry to make that big pitch for their next big idea or some other big dream but you have to ask yourself, if Scott Ross wasn’t known by George Lucas, what are your chances?
Also this startling disconnect is nothing new in the VFX industry. I rarely see execs around work. In my opinion VFX is an industry where micromanagers thrive and are needed.
Consider the success of DreamWorks Animation. Jeffrey Katzenberg is a notorious micromanager but in a good way. Artists will tell you that he is at work on a daily basis, always in the loop with what’s going on and is quite accessible. Maybe he takes it a little too far: I’ve heard stories of Katzenberg making sure artists put their lunch dishes away correctly after eating.
If an exec is worried about that, how do you think he is handling the company’s finances?
You’ll Never Work Again In This Town.
We also have a revelation from Mr. Ross that execs at ILM essentially blacklisted him:
I was told in no uncertain terms, that I was not welcomed back. In fact, not only was I not welcomed back, but that I was banned from the ranch. Me, banned from the ranch….. What had this come to?
There was some talk about blacklisting in the VFX industry in my last post. It does happen and it happens often. However I’ve found it happens to just as many good workers as bad workers. I’ve been blacklisted from one company for taking a better offer at another company. My rule of thumb is if you’ve never been blacklisted by anyone in the VFX industry, you are probably underpaid.
Blacklisting happens to good workers because they can be known as boat rockers. Some people just want to maintain a status quo and few want to bring in someone who could change things just enough to render them useless and at the end of an employment line.
However, we never really look at the human and the economic toll in all of this. It’s stupid to me. I can understand legitimately bad workers being blacklisted but as I watched my mother burst into tears after a former employer revealed I was blacklisted for going to work for another company, it made realize that I was basically damned no matter what kind of worker I was.
Cameron Vs. Ross
The last line in Scott Ross’s post reveals a bit of a tease to his next piece:
Scott, EA could use an organization like the one you and your partners are building”. He continued, “And I would be thrilled to have you as its CEO”. I thought, fantastic. And then Larry said ” But as your boss, I could control you, but no one could control Jim Cameron…. so we pass”.
You’ve probably heard of the legendary Hollywood feuds of Katzenberg vs Eisner and Geffen vs Ovitz. Well in VFX we have Cameron vs. Ross.
Feuding egos are nothing new but the toll on workers who really had nothing to do with the situation just plain sucks. Ask around about the fall of ESC and you’ll understand. It’s all about egos and proving who is better than who.
They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. I sometimes wonder if VFX is Hollywood for ugly people with very small penises.